DNR Approves Enbridge Line 3 “Pre-Construction” Work; Trump Expected to Weaken State’s Pipeline Oversight

The controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline still faces significant court challenges and needs numerous state and federal permits, but Enbridge already has begun to work on the project.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has given Enbridge permission to conduct “pre-construction” work for its Line 3 crude oil pipeline on DNR-administered state lands, the DNR says. “These activities include civil and environmental survey and geotechnical boring,” the statement said.

The DNR’s statement came in response to questions posed by Healing Minnesota Stories about reports that Enbridge might have begun Line 3 construction prior to receiving necessary permits. Continue reading

For Enbridge Line 3, It’s the Calm Before the Storm

It’s quiet now, but there’s a looming confrontation over Enbridge Line 3.

After many contentious hearings last year, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. It was a flawed decision, ignoring climate change, treaty rights, spill risks, and the fact that Minnesota doesn’t need this pipeline to meet its oil needs.

On one hand, Line 3 still faces legal challenges and regulatory hurdles and can still be stopped. On the other, the federal government could intervene and try approve the pipeline even if the state objects.

Civil disobedience and direct action could occur should Enbridge start construction. So far things have been relatively calm. Should construction start, it’s going to get ugly. (See earlier blog: Minnesota Law Enforcement Already Coordinating with Enbridge to Respond to Line 3 Protests, Report Says.)

In the meantime, here’s what’s going on behind the scenes.

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MN Dept. of Commerce Joins Appeal Against Enbridge Line 3, Protest at Line 3 Storage Yard, and More

More than 50 pipeline resisters met at this pipeline storage yard in a Carlton County gravel pit Thursday to call on the state to halt all Line 3 construction and pre-construction activities until all Line 3 reviews are complete. Enbridge has several such storage yards around the state that don’t have appropriate permits.

Governor Mark Dayton came out today against the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota, backing a legal challenge by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to overturn the decision of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Members of MN350, the Youth Climate Intervenors and the Sierra Club stopped by Gov. Dayton’s office today to thank his staff for his support of the Line 3 appeal.

In a decision that didn’t seem to line up with the facts, the PUC voted this summer to grant Line 3 a Certificate of Need and a Route permit. Line 3 will add significantly to climate damage and violate treaty rights. Oil spills from Line 3 could damage the Mississippi River and our clean lakes and streams. The evidence shows Minnesota doesn’t need this pipeline; it will only serve to help Canada’s foreign export efforts.

Indigenous and environmental groups have been pushing Dayton to take a stand against Line 3 for more than a year. Now in his final weeks in office, Dayton took a very positive step to stop this unnecessary project. According to his news release, he said:

“I strongly support my Commerce Department’s appeal of the Public Utilities Commission’s Order.

“Enbridge failed to provide a future demand forecast for its product, which is required by state law. Instead, the company presented its analysis of the future oil supply from Canadian tar sands extractions. It failed to demonstrate that Minnesota needs this pipeline to meet our future oil demand. In fact, most of the product would flow through our state to supply other states and countries.

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Youth Rally Against Climate Change, Promise Legal Challenge to Line 3 Crude Oil Pipeline

Sunday’s “Our Future, Our Right” March with MN Youth for a Fossil Free Future.
The march and rally ended in the Minnesota Capitol rotunda.

Youth around the world will feel the greatest impacts of climate change. So it makes sense that youth are taking a lead to force the government and business interests to stop thinking about short-term profits and two-year election cycles and start thinking long-term about the planet’s very survival.

Youth are taking the federal government to court to force stronger action against climate change. They are taking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to court to stop the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline. They are petitioning the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to write stronger regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are getting ready for the 2019 legislative session.

To bring attention to their work, youth-led groups organized a climate justice rally and march on Sunday called “Our Future, Our Right.” Several hundred people gathered at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Downtown St. Paul to show their solidarity with the youth leaders, then marched with them to the state Capitol.

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Pushing Back on the PUC, Part II: State Agencies Criticize Enbridge Line 3 Promises, Seek Changes

This is the second in a series that will review responses to Enbridge’s last-minute promises to improve its Line 3 pipeline project. The PUC adopted these with no pubic scrutiny. This blog looks at the responses from state agencies. The last blog will look at responses from Friends of the Headwaters.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) allowed Enbridge to change its proposal after the official record had closed. Specifically, the PUC accepted Enbridge’s deal sweeteners and voted to approve them without giving regulators or the public a chance to review and critique them.

While Enbridge’s promises might look good on paper that’s no guarantee they will deliver.

In today’s blog, we look at the many questions and concerns raised by state agencies involved with project oversight: the Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

These responses show just how little thought Commissioners gave Enbridge’s proposals before giving them the green light.

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DNR Comments on Line 3 Report Raise Additional Environmental Concerns

Enbridge’s current deteriorating Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline on the Fond du Lac Reservation, exposed above ground. Enbridge wants to abandon the pipeline. Photo: John Ratzloff

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) both weighed in on the Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report and recommendations on Line 3, clarifying, amplifying, and critiquing them.

Both agencies generally compliment Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s report for being, as the DNR put it, “comprehensive” and “neutral.” Neither agency takes a position on how the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should vote on the Line 3 permits.

Still, the agency comments provide further illumination on why the PUC should reject Line 3. The DNR comments show that Enbridge’s current plans fails to provide adequate protections to northern Minnesota’s waters and environment. The MPCA comments reinforce O’Reilly’s critiques of the project’s risks.

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Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Storage Yards Appear to Violate Law, MPCA Approved Them with No Scrutiny

Pipeline storage yard near White Earth.

For years, Enbridge has operated large pipeline storage yards around northern Minnesota in anticipation that the Minnesota Pubic Utilities Commission (PUC) would eventually approve its Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through the state.

However, critics say Enbridge got permits for these storage yards in 2014 and 2015 under false pretenses. It applied online through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for storm water construction permits. It checked the box that said the project had completed all necessary environmental reviews. While that wasn’t true, the permit got electronically approved because all the correct boxes were checked.

The Star Tribune wrote about the controversy today’s paper in an article headlined: Pipeline opponents claim Enbridge skirted permit rules for storage yard: Enbridge in a statement said the “permits were issued in compliance with applicable regulations at the time.”  A key passage says:

Under law and MPCA regulations, permits such as those for Enbridge’s pipe yards aren’t supposed to be issued before the completion of an environmental review for an entire project. The MPCA wrote to Enbridge in March that the pipe-yard permits were approved “prior to completion of the required environmental review” of Line 3.

(Note: It was only this month that the Line 3 environmental impact statement was deemed “adequate” by an administrative law judge, and it still needs final PUC approval.)

These storage yards create the impression that this pipeline is a done deal. They show disregard for the ongoing review and approval process. They are an attempt to bias the project.

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