Walz administration to challenge Line 3 approval

Enbridge said in a statement that the appeal was disappointing and “is not supported by evidence or Minnesota law.”

Image credit: Twitter via @350

The six-year battle in Minnesota over Enbridge’s 1960s-era Line 3 pipeline will continue.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) on Wednesday will appeal the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) February decision that approved the project’s certificate of need.

The Enbridge project would replace Line 3’s 337-mile long, 34-inch pipeline in Minnesota, which operates at 51 percent capacity due to corrosion, with a new 36-inch wide pipeline.

The replacement would boost average oil flow to 760,000 barrels per day.

Supporters say the project will create 8,600 jobs. Enbridge says it would pay around $65 million in Minnesota property taxes in the project’s first functional year.

“This appeal is consistent with previous Department actions and with the approval process laid out in Minnesota law,” the DOC said in a statement.

The DOC said the PUC erred because Enbridge didn’t introduce a proper crude oil demand forecast.

The department also said that the PUC shifted the burden of proof from Enbridge to the DOC “to show that demand for product transmitted by Line 3 would decrease during the forecast period.”

Enbridge said in a statement that the appeal was disappointing and “is not supported by evidence or Minnesota law.”

The Calgary, Alberta-based company said the replacement project has undergone more than 70 public meetings and a 13,500-page Environmental Impact Statement.

Enbridge quoted Walz-appointed Commissioner Valerie Means, who voted in February for the project, saying: “the Commission relies on long-range forecasts in a certificate-of-need analysis, because evidence of short-term fluctuations in oil markets are not particularly useful in determining the need for a petroleum pipeline.”

The company said the $2.6 billion investment would bring 4,200 union construction jobs and boost the economy in Northern Minnesota communities, some of which have unemployment rates above 10 percent.

Line 3 supporters blasted the decision.

Laborers’ International Union of North America – Minnesota and North Dakota said in a statement said they were disappointed by the decision.

“The family-sustaining jobs and business opportunities that can be created by replacing Line 3 are lifelines for local workers and communities, who desperately need this project to have a fighting chance at economic recovery amidst this pandemic,” President and Business Manager Joel Smith said.

“We do not advocate for the approval of the Line 3 Replacement simply to create jobs,” Smith continued. “We need to replace the existing badly-deteriorated pipeline in order to protect environmental and tribal resources. But if there were ever a time when thousands of family sustaining jobs on critical infrastructure projects were needed, it is right now.”

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, criticized the delay, saying that Walz was “wasting taxpayer resources” trying to stop a project that his own appointed regulators approved.

“Instead of helping the one in four Minnesotans unemployed along the Line 3 route, the Governor has once again chosen to obstruct and delay this critical project and the thousands of jobs it would bring to Northern Minnesota,” Daudt said in a statement.

Enbridge still needs at least two federal and state permits before it can begin construction.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals will determine its next steps.

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This article was republished with permission from The Center Square