Revisiting the PUC’s tortured logic to approve Line 3 regardless of its massive climate damage

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) wrote in its Certificate of Need for Enbridge Line 3 that benefits of approving it outweighed the costs.

It could only come to that conclusion by completely ignoring climate damage.

There are clear signs in the record that Commissioners were grasping at straws to justify approving Line 3 in spite of its clear and significant climate damage.

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Half of Line 3’s ‘Independent Environmental Monitors’ have prior work for Enbridge

There are more than two dozen Independent Environmental Monitors spread out along the 337-mile Enbridge Line 3 pipeline corridor in northern Minnesota. They are supposed to be the eyes and ears for state regulators, making sure Enbridge is following all permits and rules and minimizing environmental damage.

Half of the 25 independent monitors hired to work on behalf of Minnesota state regulatory agencies have worked on Enbridge projects at some time in the past, according to monitor resumes obtained through a public information request.

It raises questions about how “independent” these monitors really are.

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Line 3 updates: Enbridge, PUC field tough questions in court; “Operation River Crossing,” and more

  • PUC rejects nearly $100,000 in Line 3 reimbursements sought by the Beltrami County Sheriff
  • Northern Lights Task Force launches “Operation River Crossing” for Line 3
  • Enbridge faces tough questioning on the need for Line 3
  • U. of M. students press Regents to denounce and defund Line 3, seek public support
  • Stronger Together to Stop DAPL, Line 3 event Tuesday, March 30
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Three ways to support Line 3 resistance, and a critique of Gov. Walz

In this blog:

  • Contact Attorney General Keith Ellison and the MN Department of Commerce, tell them to seek an injunction on Line 3
  • Contact Gov. Walz and tell him to get his pandemic priorities straight, stop Line 3’s influx of out-of-state workers
  • Frontline Line 3 resistance continues; needs bail funds
  • Walz ‘refused to listen to the science,’ Sierra Club says
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Thank you Governor Walz! State refiles Line 3 pipeline appeal

Groups opposed to the Line 3 tar sands pipeline filed appeals today to overturn Enbridge Line 3’s permits at the Minnesota Court of Appeals .

Gov. Tim Walz

In terrific news for those opposing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, the Minnesota Department of Commerce late today announced it would refile its appeal to stop the project. (Thanks to MPR’s Dan Kraker for the tweet.) The case now heads to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The Walz administration faced a Wednesday deadline to file its appeal. The Governor hadn’t indicated which way he was leaning. The pressure was on.

Earlier today, Indigenous Nations and environmental groups filed a joint appeal to reject Line 3’s permits. Group representatives called on Walz to renew the state’s appeal at a press conference outside the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“Yet again, the PUC has refused to acknowledge the reality that Line 3 would pose untenable costs to Minnesota, all to deliver tar sands oil we don’t need,” Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin said in a media release. “Their bad decision — ignoring state’s agencies’ recommendations, and based on a faulty process — would be devastating for Minnesota’s clean water and communities. The Court must reject the PUC’s decision once and for all.”

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Legislators tell MPCA to reject Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, MN Dept. of Commerce needs to refile Line 3 appeal

File: MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop.

Thirty-four state lawmakers submitted a letter to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop Wednesday, urging action to deny the Enbridge the environmental certificate it needs to build the Line 3 pipeline expansion.

Line 3 threatens our state’s clean waters, our climate, and treaty rights, they said.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Commerce faces an Aug. 19 deadline to refile its legal objections to Line 3. Commerce’s independent analysis shows that Enbridge failed to prove this pipeline is needed. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the project over Commerce’s objections. Commerce now needs to take the issue to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Recent news from the Canadian tar sands region strengthens Commerce’s hand. It shows the industry is tanking, meaning there’s even less demand for Enbridge’s new pipeline.

Action by the MPCA and the Department of Commerce could help stop this dangerous project.

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Apology to the Minnesota Department of Commerce

A blog posted on Oct. 8 “Minnesota’s failed oversight of the Line 3 Human Trafficking Prevention Plan (continued)” incorrectly stated that the Minnesota Department of Commerce had not responded to a request for information. It had. I didn’t see it its email response because of a problem with my email program or antivirus software.

The original blog has been taken down.

The blog will be updated with Commerce’s response and reposted.

For a crude oil pipeline carrying 760,000 barrels a day, a “pinhole leak” is bigger than it sounds

Enbridge Line 3 could spill up to 7,600 barrels a day without triggering leak sensors

One of the difficulties writing about the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline is that one gets buried by thousands of pages of documents, much more than most people have the time to read. There’s testimony, briefing papers, the environmental impact statement, administrative law judge analysis, permit applications, permit decisions, legal appeals … you get the picture.

There are many important stories hidden in these documents. I haven’t scratched the surface. I depend on people who have done the deep dive, people like Nicolette Slagle, Honor the Earth’s research director. She put me onto the “pinhole leak” story. It sounds small enough until you get into the details.

Honor the Earth and its consultant CJE did important work pointing out flaws in Enbridge’s pinhole leak analysis. Stunningly, state regulators failed to acknowledge any of them in Line 3’s final environmental impact statement.

This story is too late to affect change in the Line 3 environmental impact statemenet. But it raises larger questions about state regulators’ ability to effectively review future proposals of similar harmful projects.

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Public Utilities Commission, Enbridge need to go back to square one on Line 3’s Human Trafficking Prevention Plan

When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the Route Permit for the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, it required the company to develop a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan for the project’s construction phase.

Enbridge Line 3 is a proposed multi-billion dollar crude oil pipeline project that would run 340 miles through northern Minnesota. Public testimony and the state’s Line 3’s environmental impact statement raised concerns about the connection between the large influx of out-of-state construction workers for the project and increases in drug and sex trafficking along the construction route.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is done, but Enbridge won’t release it. It appears Enbridge failed to engage a key participant — the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force — as the Public Utilities Commission required. Enbridge doesn’t even seem to think the Human Trafficking Prevention Plan is needed as it relates to Line 3.

It’s time to reset this conversation and start over.

A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision has put the Line 3 issue back before the Public Utilities Commission. The Commission now has chance to fix the problems.

Here are six reasons to worry that, without changes, Enbridge’s plan will be inadequate. Continue reading