Line 3 pipeline opponents appeal to Minnesota Supreme Court

Jul 14, 2021, 3:40 PM | Updated: 4:48 pm

FILE - This June 29, 2018 file photo shows tanks at the Enbridge Energy terminal in Superior, Wis. ...

FILE - This June 29, 2018 file photo shows tanks at the Enbridge Energy terminal in Superior, Wis. Wednesday is the deadline for tribal and environmental groups opposed to Enbridge Energy's Line 3 oil pipeline project to ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision affirming the approvals granted by independent regulators that allowed construction to begin last December.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tribal and environmental groups opposed to Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline project asked the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday to overturn a lower court decision affirming the approvals granted by independent regulators that allowed construction to begin last December.

The legal move came as protests continue along the route in northern Minnesota. More than 500 protesters have been arrested or issued citations since construction on the Minnesota leg of the project began in December, but they have failed so far to persuade President Joe Biden’s administration to stop the project. Meanwhile, opponents have been demanding more transparency about a spill last week of drilling mud into a river that the pipeline will cross.

The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the Sierra Club and Honor the Earth petitioned the state’s highest court to hear the case after the Minnesota Court of Appeals last month ruled that the Public Utilities Commission correctly granted Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge a certificate of need and route permit for the 337-mile (542-kilometer) Minnesota segment of a larger project to replace a crude oil pipeline built in the 1960s that can run at only half capacity. Two other groups — Friends of the Headwaters and Youth Climate Intervenors — made similar but separate filings.

The state Commerce Department was part of that earlier appeal but decided not to ask the Supreme Court for further review. One of the central issues in the earlier appeal was the Commerce Department’s contention that Enbridge’s long-range oil demand projections failed to meet the legal requirements. But the appeals panel ruled 2-1 that there was reasonable evidence to support the PUC’s conclusion that the forecasts were adequate.

The department said that while the Court of Appeals disagreed with its position, the court’s opinion provided clarity for similar future proceedings. The remaining parties still argue that the PUC failed to demonstrate the need for the oil that Line 3 would transport. And they said in their petition that the appeals court should have considered whether there was enough evidence to back up the PUC’s finding that the existing Line 3 poses a real and immediate safety risk.

The Commerce Department’s involvement had posed a thorny political problem for Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. The Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate expressed its displeasure last summer by firing then-Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley. And the Senate GOP reaffirmed its readiness to fight the Walz administration on environmental disputes last week when it forced out Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop over other matters.

The Line 3 replacement would carry Canadian tar sands oil and regular crude from Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The more than $7 billion project is nearly done except for the Minnesota leg, which is more than 60% complete. Opponents say the heavy oil would accelerate climate change and risk spills in lakes, wetlands and streams where Native Americans harvest wild rice, hunt, fish, and claim treaty rights. But Enbridge says the replacement, made of stronger steel, will better protect the environment while restoring capacity and ensuring reliable deliveries to refineries.

Opposition groups have stepped up pressure for authorities to disclose more details about their response to the July 6 drilling mud spill near Palisade where the pipeline will cross under the Willow River, a tributary of the Mississippi River.

“It was a bright yellow or orange color and it was bubbling up from the river bed,” said Shanai Matteson, who lives nearby and was part of a group that spotted the spill the morning it happened.

They saw no immediate efforts by officials to monitor or contain the spill, Matteson said. Crews later brought in a pump truck and placed booms in the river, she said.

MPCA spokeswoman Cori Rude-Young said the spill was inadvertent and involved around 80-100 gallons of mud made up of bentonite clay, water, and an approved, nontoxic additive made from xanthan gum, a common food ingredient.

“Upon identification of the release, all drilling activities at the location were suspended and containment and cleanup activities were started,” Rude-Young said. She said the investigation was continuing.

Even if the drilling mud was primarily clay, Matteson said, the silt can still harm sensitive aquatic organisms. And she said the spill made opponents even more worried about what could happen if the pipeline were to leak near that spot, since the heavy oil the pipeline will carry could sink and go undetected for some time.

Rita Chamblin, an activist from the Bemidji area, said she got few answers last week when she tried contacting the MPCA to see how officials there were going to respond.

“Would we have ever known about it had we not had people there?” Chamblin asked.

Melissa Lorentz, an attorney with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said Enbridge’s permits specifically prohibit the discharge of drilling mud into waters along the route.

Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner said the cleanup is complete. She said the company reported the spill immediately.

“There were no impacts to any aquifers nor were there downstream impacts because environmental control measures were installed at this location,” Kellner said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

1 day ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

2 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

9 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

10 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

12 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Line 3 pipeline opponents appeal to Minnesota Supreme Court