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Environmentalists, Indigenous bands will continue to appeal Line 3 decision

The move ends a legal challenge that began in former Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's administration was continued by Gov. Tim Walz's administration.

File: Enbridge Line 3 protest.JPG
Protesters chant and raise signs as they march on Duluth's Lakewalk on Sept. 28, 2019, after a rally at Gichi-ode' Akiing in protest of Enbridge Line 3. (Tyler Schank / File / News Tribune)
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DULUTH, Minn. — Environmental groups and Indigenous bands opposed to Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline have asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's ruling that said regulators relied on the correct demand forecast when approving the pipeline.

But the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which had sided with the groups and bands in arguing the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission erred in granting the project its certificate of need because Enbridge did not demonstrate sufficient need to build the pipeline, said it would not be appealing the decision further.

"While the Court of Appeals disagreed with the Department that legal error had occurred, the Court’s opinion provided the Department clarity for future certificate of need proceedings," Commerce Department spokesperson Mo Schriner said in a statement. "As such, Commerce is not petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ decision on Line 3."

Commerce's move ends a legal challenge that began in former Gov. Mark Dayton's administration and was continued by Gov. Tim Walz's administration.

In a 2-1 decision last month , the Court of Appeals sided with Enbridge and the PUC, saying the correct forecast was used and that it demonstrated Line 3 was needed.

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The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, Friends of the Headwaters and Youth Climate Interveners on Wednesday petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to revisit that decision.

"We will continue to make our case in court that the permits for this dirty tar sands pipeline should never have been approved, but with construction underway, there is no time to waste," Margaret Levin, state director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, said in a news release.

The groups pointed to the dissenting opinion written by Judge Peter Reyes, who argued the PUC “committed legal errors and acted arbitrarily or capriciously by granting (Enbridge) a certificate of need that is unsupported by substantial evidence.”

Judge Lucinda E. Jesson, writing the majority decision for her and Judge Michael Kirk, said "substantial evidence supports the commission's decision to issue a certificate of need."

Work on the 340-mile pipeline across northern Minnesota is more than 60% complete as protests against the pipeline continue. Opponents of the pipeline say it is unneeded, at risk of an oil spill, worsens climate change and violates Indigenous and treaty rights.

Once complete, the pipeline will replace the existing, aging Line 3 and ferry 760,000 barrels of oil (31.92 million gallons) per day from Alberta, Canada, to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wis., following a new route through much of northern Minnesota. The segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already complete.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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