Enbridge scores victory on Minnesota's Line 3 pipeline project

Despite legal challenges, Line 3's replacement in Minnesota is nearly complete and expected to be in service in the fourth quarter of 2021

The Minnesota Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal on Tuesday from opponents of Enbridge Energy's Line 3 pipeline project. The move upholds a June decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals to allow the project's construction to proceed and leaves Native American and environmental groups protesting Line 3 with a dwindling number of legal options. 

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals declared that the state's Public Utilities Commission correctly granted the Calgary, Alberta-based natural gas distributor a certificate of need and route permit for the 337-mile Minnesota segment of a larger project to replace an aging crude oil pipeline built in the 1960s that can run at only half capacity. The court also backed the commission's approval of the environmental review for the project.

Opponents of the pipeline have argued that Line 3's replacement violates treaties and threatens waters where wild rice grows. They also argue that the oil carried by Line 3 will aggravate global warming.

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"We’re pleased with the decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding Line 3’s Certificate of Need, Route Permit and Environmental Impact Statement which have been reaffirmed multiple times by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and this June by the Minnesota Court of Appeals," an Enbridge spokesperson told FOX Business on Wednesday. "The most studied pipeline project in Minnesota history has cleared yet another hurdle."

Though legal challenges remain before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and in federal court, Line 3's replacement in Minnesota in nearly complete and expected to be in service in the fourth quarter of 2021. 

Enbridge maintains that the the Line 3 project is "safety and maintenance driven," replacing an aging pipeline with a safer one made of thicker steel with more advanced coatings. In addition, the company claims it has "demonstrated ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty" while creating thousands of family-sustaining construction jobs and millions of dollars in local spending and tax revenues. To date, Enbridge says it has spent more than $287 million project dollars specifically with tribal nations, citizens, communities, and contractors.

"As the result of negotiations with tribal leadership, Line 3 was routed outside of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation and through the Reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa," the spokesperson continued. "Both Leech Lake and Fond du Lac have written in support of project permits.  White Earth Nation was also included and invited to be part of the process, and because of their concerns Line 3 was routed outside of the Upper and Lower Rice Lake and its watershed."

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Winona LaDuke, the executive director of Indigenous-based environmental group Honor the Earth, called the ruling "a sad day for Minnesota."

"The rights of a Canadian corporation continue to prevail over the laws of nature and the human rights of Anishinaabe people," LaDuke told the Associated Press. "That a court would rule there is no environmental impact when the rivers have been sucked dry and scientists are declaring a Code Red for the planet is deeply disturbing. A crime is being committed in front of us all. And now Enbridge is set to make a profit off the destruction of our north."

Despite Tuesday's ruling, Line 3 opponents are holding a series of events at the state Capitol in St. Paul this week, including a march and rally on Wednesday to call on President Biden to order the Army Corps of Engineers to cancel the project's federal permits. More than 700 protesters have been arrested or ticketed along the route since construction in Minnesota began last December.

The Associated Press contributed to this report