How will the MPCA handle Enbridge Line 3’s water quality certificate? Minntac’s example is alarming

Part IV and last in a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Tribes, environmental groups, and concerned citizens won a victory recently, when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) agreed to allow challenges to its proposed approval of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline.

To proceed with Line 3, Enbridge needs the MPCA to issue the project a water quality certificate. The agency had tentatively given the OK.

Public pressure got the MPCA to reconsider, and it ordered a contested case hearing. Administrative Law Judge James LaFave will handle the proceedings, expected later this summer. The hearings will allow intervenors — White Earth Nation, Red Lake Nation, Honor the Earth, Sierra Club and Friends of the Headwaters — to challenge the facts the MPCA used to reach its decision.

This is a significant win. The MPCA doesn’t seem inclined to use its regulatory authority to protect water quality. One troubling example is the MPCA’s failure in 2014 to use the water quality certificate process to force U.S. Steel to address ongoing pollution problems at its Minntac taconite mine in northern Minnesota.

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MPCA grants limited contested case hearing on Enbridge Line 3’s water crossing certificate, but ducks tough issues

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) today announced it has agreed to hold a contested case hearing on the water crossing certificate for the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline.

Line 3 would cross more than 200 water bodies in northern Minnesota and 79 miles of wetlands. The MPCA’s announcement is a partial win for pipeline opponents, including Native Nations, environmental groups and regular citizens. Yet the MPCA still is failing to live up to its environmental protection mission.

The MPCA had recommended approving Line 3’s water crossing permit. Pipeline opponents will now have the opportunity to appear before an Administrative Law Judge to challenge the MPCA’s case, based on the project’s water and wetland impacts.

Sadly, the MPCA limited the contested case hearing’s scope, leaving key issues off the table. Pipeline opponents will not be allowed to argue against Line 3 based on its climate impacts or future crude oil spills, both powerful reasons to reject the project.

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