MN Court of Appeals Gives Enbridge Line 3 Opponents Partial Win

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that the state’s environmental impact statement for the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline is inadequate “because it does not address the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed.” It ordered the issue back before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for further evaluation.

It’s only a partial win.

The Court of Appeals rejected other key arguments made by Line 3 opponents. Opponents argued the environmental impact statement had failed to adequately analyze route alternatives to Enbridge’s preferred route. They also argued the PUC shouldn’t have approved Line 3’s environmental impact statement before the “traditional cultural properties survey” was complete. (Such a survey makes sure projects such as Line 3 take into account potential damage to places of historic and cultural significance.) The court rejected both arguments.

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Honor the Earth Files First Legal Challenge to PUC Approval of Enbridge Line 3

Honor the Earth is suing to stop Enbridge Line 3 in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, saying the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the project based on a faulty and inadequate environmental impact statement (EIS).

Honor the Earth filed the legal challenge earlier this month, the first of what could be several lawsuits by various parties seeking to stop the pipeline. Honor the Earth’s lawsuit says the PUC’s decision “was contrary to law, not supported by the evidence, and arbitrary and capricious.” Continue reading

MPR Buys Into Enbridge Line 3 Spin that Climate Change is Just Too Confusing

Tar sands mining in Alberta contributes to climate change. (Wikimedia Commons)

MPR’s latest story on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline buys into the corporate narrative that climate change is just too confusing for people to understand. It starts with the headline: Why no one agrees on Line 3 pipeline’s climate change impact, which undermines the science in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The EIS estimates Line 3’s “social cost of carbon” pollution at $287 billion over 30 years.  The social cost of carbon “is meant to be a comprehensive estimate of climate change damages. It includes changes in net agricultural productivity; human health; property damages from increased flood risk; and changes in energy system costs, such as reduced costs for heating and increased costs for air conditioning.”

I’m not saying that people can’t challenge the analysis, but let’s be clear about what is in the EIS. It’s $287 billion estimate is conservative, a likely underestimate of the costs. The social cost of carbon estimate “does not include all important damages,” because of limitations with the modeling and data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says such “social costs of carbon” estimates are “a useful measure to assess the benefits of CO2 reductions,” it says.

The MPR story never mentions the $287 billion cost.

Corporate efforts to muddy the facts are nothing new. Recall how tobacco companies tried to undermine the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Pipeline companies don’t need to convince people that tar sands crude oil doesn’t affect climate, they just need to raise doubts, making it so hard to understand that people walk away scratching their heads.

MPR’s story reflects that narrative. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Calculating the carbon footprint of a project like Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline is complicated. Not only are there multiple steps involved in the analysis, but there’s also a need to make an educated guess about what the world would look like with and without the new pipeline.

Comment: So the story’s takeaway is not the $287 billion public pricetag, but that the analysis is “complicated,” there are “multiple steps” that include “educated guesses.” The MPR analysis does more to confuse than illuminate.

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Line 3 Updates: Final PUC Vote Delayed; Growing Concerns About Eminent Domain

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had expected a final vote on the Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline by late April; now it looks like the vote will be pushed back by a couple of months into July.

The proposed Line 3 pipeline expansion through northern Minnesota threatens lakes, rivers, and wild rice areas. It violates treaty rights. It will add to climate change. It is an investment in 19th Century energy solutions instead of looking to the future. Any project delay is good news. It adds costs to the project and increases the likelihood that it can be stopped. Continue reading

PUC to Vote Thursday, Dec. 7 on Line 3’s Environmental Impact Statement

Honor the Earth map of Enbridge Line 3.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is scheduled to vote on the Enbridge Line 3 environmental impact statement (EIS) Thursday, Dec. 7, starting at 9:30 a.m. at its regular meeting space in Metro Square, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul.

The public will not have an opportunity to speak, but public presence sends a message to the PUC that people are watching.

To recap: Enbridge’s existing Line 3 is old and failing; Enbridge wants to abandon it in the ground. (Bad idea.) It has proposed a new and larger pipeline along a new route through northern Minnesota. It threatens the Mississippi headwaters, lakes, rivers and wild rice areas. It violates the interests of Ojibwe people who have reserved treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather along lands crossed by the pipeline.

The EIS decision is one of several key  Line 3 votes. Should the PUC find the EIS “inadequate” it would not kill the project, but would likely delay it. The EIS would need further work. (A project delay would also cost Enbridge money.) Even if the PUC approves the EIS, the PUC still needs to vote on Line 3’s Certificate of Need and Route Plan. Those votes are not expected until April.

The EIS has been criticized by indigenous and environmental groups. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, in cooperation with six Chippewa bands and Honor the Earth, has released its own draft environmental impact statement, called the Tribal Cumulative Impact Statement.

Here is the PUC’s Dec. 7 agenda:

1. Should the Commission find that the Final Environmental Impact Statement is Adequate?
2. Should the Commission adopt the administrative law judge’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation?
3. Whether the data identified as Trade Secret in Appendix F and Appendix I of Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership’s Certificate of Need Application for the Proposed Line 3 Replacement Project is public under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

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What are the Risks of a Line 3 Tar Sands Crude Oil Spill? Government Analysis Fails to Give Clear Answers

Last in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Commerce is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

People packed the hall in Bemidji to comment on the draft EIS.

For the last installment, let’s look at how the environmental impact statement (EIS) discusses the risks of a major Line 3 pipeline rupture and what impact it would have on recreation areas, clean waters, wild rice areas and Minnesota tribes. That’s covered in Chapter 10 of the EIS where Commerce analyzes spills.

Chapter 10 is highly technical and seems intentionally opaque, failing to provide readers with any kind of a meaningful summary. It does a very poor job of communicating so people can understand what is at stake and effectively engage in the debate.

This is doubling disturbing since the public hearings on the pipeline’s Certificate of Need and Route Plan already are underway around the state.

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Commerce Offers Rushed and Incomplete Responses to Draft EIS Criticisms

Fifth in a series of critiques of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Commerce is taking public comments on the adequacy of the EIS until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. To learn how to submit comments, click here.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce got swamped with comments to its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Appendix T of the Final EIS chronicles the hundreds of pages of comments received and the hundreds of pages of the Department’s responses.

The final EIS is inadequate because some of the department’s responses do not adequately address the questions and criticisms raised by the public and government officials. Let’s look at a few examples.

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