Local leaders in northwest Minnesota expressed gratitude at a recent court ruling that declined to halt construction on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Minnesota Court of Appeals denied a request by an environmental group and two northern Minnesota Indigenous tribes to issue a stay that would have brought work on the project to a stop. In early December, pipeliners flocked to the region to begin work and filled up hotels in the process.
“You couldn’t put a number on it really, for the dollar amount that has been invested in our community with the pipeliners in town,” said Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer. “It’s a thankful thing they're here for the economy right now when it’s greatly needed.”
Restaurants and bars, now allowed to offer dine-in service, have seen an influx of customers, and business at the local laundromat has increased tenfold, according to Holmer, who said business at his shop, Michael’s Meats, has increased by a third.
Stores in rural Leonard, Minnesota, which lies to the northwest of Bagley, also have seen a positive impact because of the project, according to Mayor Dan Godin, who told the Herald he is “all for” the project, as he believes it’s the safest way to transport oil. He said he is renting his house in the town, which has a population of 49, to a group of pipeliners, and he is thankful to help with lodging.
“It definitely helps the bar, the store, the café; it actually helps everything so it’s been good for us,” Godin said. “We’re small potatoes, but the impact is good.”
But not everyone is happy about the ruling. In a Tuesday social media post, Friends of the Headwaters, an environmental group that opposes the pipeline, expressed disappointment in the appellate court’s decision and said it would continue efforts to stop the project.
“FOH realizes that stays pending appeal are always difficult to obtain, but we are concerned that the court did not understand just how damaging the ongoing construction activity is to Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and wetlands,” the post reads. “Friends of the Headwaters will press on with our legal challenges to this project in both state and federal courts, and we remain confident that, eventually, the courts will keep Line 3 from ever going into operation.”
Friends of the Headwaters joined the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and White Earth Band of Ojibwe in asking the Court of Appeals to pull permits for the project, until lawsuits against the pipeline have a chance to play out in court.
The massive pipeline project received final regulatory approval from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in late November. According to Enbridge, the U.S. portion of the pipeline will cost about $2.9 billion. The pipeline begins in Alberta, Canada, clips the northeast corner of North Dakota, then continues for 337 miles in Minnesota, before terminating in Wisconsin.