MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Gov. Tim Walz’s administration said on Tuesday it would appeal the latest approvals from utility regulators for Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its old corroded Line 3 crude oil pipeline through the northern Minnesota.
The state’s Commerce Department faced a deadline Wednesday to ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reconsider the project. Environmental and tribal groups opposed to the pipeline have already filed their appeals.
Walz said in a statement that the state must follow “process, law, and science” for any project that impacts Minnesota’s environment and economy.
“The Commerce Department’s appeal is part of that process, and it’s important to ensure clarity on the steps Minnesota takes to assess and approve projects like this,” Walz said.
Republican House Leader Kurt Daudt of Crown said Walz was “wasting taxpayer resources trying to stop this project.”
“Instead of helping one in four Minnesota unemployed along Line 3, the governor has again chosen to obstruct and delay this critical project and the thousands of jobs it would create in northern Minnesota.” , said Daudt.
Enbridge, based in Calgary, Alta., Says its planned investment of $ 2.6 billion will allow 4,200 people to work in unionized construction jobs while increasing tax revenues for state and communities along of the road.
The company called the Walz administration’s decision disappointing. The project underwent six years of review, more than 70 public meetings and a 13,500-page environmental impact study, the company said.
But Enbridge said it remains confident the courts will uphold the approvals from Minnesota regulators and will continue to seek out the remaining permits with the goal of starting construction as soon as they are received.
Supporters and opponents of the project had stepped up pressure on the state government in recent days. Opponents rallied outside the Capitol and the governor’s official residence on Tuesday to urge him to continue the fight, while supporters brought petitions and pipe replicas to the Capitol last Thursday to demand that there be no no more delays or calls.
According to Enbridge, replacing the aging pipeline, built in the 1960s, is the safest option to maintain the oil supply to refineries in the Midwest.
Opponents have long argued that the oil from the Canadian tar sands transported by the replacement pipeline would worsen climate change and that the spills could endanger sensitive waters and wetlands in the Mississippi River source region, where Native Americans harvest wild rice and claim treaty rights.
The Public Services Commission reaffirmed its support for the project in February. The commission initially approved the environmental review and issued a certificate of need and a route permit in 2018.
But the Minnesota Court of Appeals returned the review to the PUC for further study on the potential risks of an oil spill in the Lake Superior watershed. Commerce then performed additional modeling and concluded during the final review that there was little chance of a spill reaching the lake.
However, the ministry joined with other opponents in asking the commission to reconsider anyway. They argued that new evidence had emerged in the meantime, including a drop in demand for oil due to the coronavirus pandemic. Commerce specifically argued that Enbridge failed to make a legally adequate long-term demand forecast. But the commission rejected those arguments and voted 4-1 to reaffirm its support for the project.
The Commerce Department said in a statement it would appeal because Enbridge failed to introduce a long-term demand forecast that the PUC could assess, and because the commission had shifted the burden of proof from ‘Enbridge to the ministry and others to show that demand for oil transmitted through Line 3 would decline over the forecast period.
Line 3 begins in Alberta and cuts through a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Replacement sections in Canada and Wisconsin are already in service.
The bill has been politically sensitive for the Democratic governor’s administration at a time when Republicans who control the Minnesota Senate have exercised their political muscles. Republicans generally support the project while Democrats have been divided.
Trade Commissioner Steve Kelley is expected to answer questions on line 3 during a Senate confirmation hearing on Friday.
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