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Final permit for Enbridge Line 3 project OK'd by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Enbridge spokespeople have said the company hopes to break ground on the Line 3 replacement project this year.

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A replica of part of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline sat outside the Minnesota Capitol Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, as project supporters aimed to convince the governor not to file another appeal delaying its construction. (Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service)
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Monday, Nov. 30, issued the final permit for the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project, greenlighting construction to move forward after a years-long application and permitting process.

The MPCA approved a construction stormwater permit for the proposed 340-mile pipeline that would replace the existing line. Once complete, the pipeline will move 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.

The projects' supporters cheered the news Monday while opponents said they would continue fighting to block the line's construction.

Enbridge has been staging equipment along the planned route in anticipation of permit approval. When asked Monday, Enbridge did not offer a specific start date to construction but said “construction can now begin” in an emailed statement.

Once work begins, the company expects the project will take six to nine months to complete.

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Labor groups and local government leaders in northern Minnesota also celebrated the decision Monday, saying it was a step forward after years of work.

“Today is an important day and milestone for Minnesota," Minnesotans for Line 3 said in a news release. "After more than six years of review, the MPCA has issued a stormwater construction permit for the Line 3 Replacement project."

Environmental groups along with the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians have vowed to continue court battles aimed at halting the project. The groups have argued that the risk of a spill is too high and the pipeline increases reliance on fossil fuels at a time when people should be moving to renewables to combat climate change.

"It’s unfortunate that Minnesota is issuing permits for an unnecessary tar sands pipeline during a global pandemic that is particularly hitting hard Native and non-native communities and fragile healthcare systems along the route even though the appeals process is still underway," Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said in a news release. "This is just reckless and irresponsible government that will have consequences for all sides."

Just last week, the White Earth and Red Lake bands asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to stay, or pause, the project’s certificate of need until ongoing legal challenges are resolved and the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

One of the appeals, filed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce with Gov. Tim Walz’s support, argues state regulators relied on the wrong demand forecast when considering if the state needed the pipeline.

Asked Monday afternoon if he believes construction should go forward while the appeal is ongoing, Walz said that’s up to the courts to decide.

“I think construction will go forward,” Walz said. “If the courts choose to issue a stay, we would certainly honor that but I have not heard that at this time."

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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