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Minnesota Supreme Court lets Sandpiper ruling stand

Pipe for the Sandpiper Pipeline is stored east of Stanley, N.D., along U.S. Highway 2 in anticipation of construction for the pipeline. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

ST. PAUL--The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request for review by Enbridge Energy and state regulators of a lower court's ruling in September that the proposed Sandpiper crude oil pipeline requires further environmental study.

In a document signed by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, the Supreme Court denied the petition by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Enbridge to examine a ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in September.

Justice David Lillehaug did not take part in the case, the document said.

Previously, the Court of Appeals overturned the PUC's approval of a permit for the Sandpiper project because the PUC did so without an Environmental Impact Statement, a specific kind of environmental study that could delay the project.

In its petition to the Supreme Court in October, Enbridge argued the Court of Appeals usurped the authority of the PUC and the Environmental Quality Board, as well as incorrectly applied the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.

"The Court of Appeals decision creates uncertainty for this and future projects because the Court improperly substituted its own judgment for that of the regulators, and in doing so, incorrectly interpreted and applied MEPA," Enbridge's petition read.

On Tuesday, a Park Rapids-based environmental group Friends of the Headwaters issued a press release hailing the news of the Supreme Court's choice.

"Friends of the Headwaters supports an EIS supervised by specialists and scientists at Minnesota's lead environmental agencies,” the release said. "Department of Commerce efforts to provide a substitute or 'equivalent' environmental review will not suffice."

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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