It turns out that money can buy you love in a few places. After all, Enbridge spent $11 million this past year - the largest amount of any corporate interest - to lobby Minnesota Public Utilities.
Recently, the Minnesota Department of Commerce filed an appeal to the Certificate of Need decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The question is who needs this pipeline. It’s a good question. The argument is that the PUC failed to comply with a number of legal requirements in issuing that Certificate of Need.
“Rather than consider a forecast need of Minnesota consumers as well as consumers throughout the country, for more gasoline, diesel and other fuels, as required by law” Paul Blackburn, attorney for Honor the Earth explains, “the commissioners based their decision on the oil industry’s forecast plans to drill more oil wells in Canada.”
That’s all changed. There are not new oil wells going in Canada. There’s an 8% cut in production in the Alberta Tar Sands fields. New investors are not flocking in, they are bailing out. Furthermore, Minnesota’s petroleum fuel consumption has dropped 19% since 2004. Even nationally, the increase in demand for petroleum fuels is limited and far below the huge increases in U.S. extraction of oil through fracking.
The fact is, the U.S. is flooded with crude oil and is now exporting it. This oil is not coming to Minnesota. The oil industry wants to increase oil exports, which are now over 8 million barrels of oil per day. That represents three times more than all of the crude oil currently imported by Enbridge from Canada. That’s a really important point. All this risk and trauma in Minnesota for oil that is most likely going to China, it’s not even for American or Minnesota energy security.
Enbridge has even invested in the Texas Colt Offshore Loading Terminal in the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport, Texas. This terminal would be able to load super tankers that can carry up to 2 million barrels per day to foreign oil buyers. That’s where Line 3 is going; most likely for export. These are some of the basic needs questions asked in the appeal. No Certificate of Need, no permit. That’s how it works.
A slew of other lawsuits have been filed and are in process: The Friends of the Headwaters, White Earth Nation, Mille Lacs and Red Lake sued the PUC in Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing that the environmental impact statement for Line 3 was inadequate.
There are a couple of reasons they think it’s inadequate. First, there’s no study of the impact of an oil spill on Lake Superior, where this oil is headed. Second, the tribal cultural survey was supposed to be done and assessed before they approved a route. That didn’t happen.
As Paul Blackburn, explains, “If the Minnesota courts overrule the PUC, they would send the EIS back to the PUC and require supplementation so that it complies with law. But, then the PUC would need to reconsider its approval of Line 3 in light of a proper EIS.” That case was heard on March 20, and a decision should be out in 60 days
Third, a number of organizations, including Park Rapids-based Friends of the Headwaters, sued the PUC in state court of appeal on the basis that its route permit approval violates state law. If the court overturns the route permit, it would send the decision back to the PUC for reconsideration in accordance with law
Fourth, Enbridge still needs to get water quality permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which regulates water quality protection, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If these agencies fail to follow the related water laws including impacts of climate change and grant permits, they, too, will be sued after their final permit decisions late this year.
Line 3 is just part of Enbridge’s problems. The Michigan Attorney General recently issued an opinion that Enbridge’s end run to get a new pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac was unconstitutional. Also, Judge Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court of Michigan wrote that an oil spill in the Mackinac Straits “poses a significant threat to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron” and that Enbridge’s oil spill response plans for Line 5 were faulty and inadequate. Goldsmith said Enbridge’s plans do not adequately account for potential impacts of a pipeline rupture to wildlife and the environment. There is a proposal that Enbridge should decommission the aging Line 5, meaning less oil demand for the company. More risk. Turns out, no one really wants a new tar sands pipeline.