Minnesota court pulls the plug on Line 3 Replacement, putting another export pipeline at risk

Minnesota court pulls the plug on Line 3 Replacement, putting another export pipeline at risk

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned the state's approval of Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Project.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the courts ruled that Minnesota's regulator acted in a manner that was "arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence" when it accepted a final environmental impact assessment (EIA) that failed to address "potentially significant issues raised" during scoping and public consultations.

More specifically, the EIA was deemed inadequate since it failed to assess the impact of a spill into the Lake Superior watershed, a major point of concern for several groups opposed to the project. Although the study did consider the potential spread of oil from spills at seven sites along the pipeline's route, none were located in the Lake Superior watershed. 

Lawyers for the project argued that the EIA analyzed the potential impacts of a spill at all locations along the route, but did not attempt to predict the consequences of a spill at any particular location since "the impact of any particular spill will depend on multiple variables, many of which are subject to chance."

Although the judges mostly agreed this was a reasonable decision, they point out that impacts to Lake Superior were clearly included in the project's original scoping documents.

MAP COURTESY ENBRIDGE

The dissenting judge warned that today's decision may have an unintended consequence of delaying replacement of the 51-year old line, which could pose an even more serious threat to the environment, including Lake Superior. 

The exiting Line 3 must be replaced under a consent decree between Enbridge, the Environmental Protection Agency and Coast Guard. It is unclear whether a whole new assessment is required, or just an amendment to the original EIA.

Enbridge had previously warned the new line would likely not be in service until the second half of next year, almost a year later than originally planned, due to regulatory and permitting delays at both the state and federal levels. Enbridge says they are disappointed with the decision and will work with state officials to determine the next steps.

Line 3 transports crude oil from Canada to the Enbridge Clearbrook Terminal near Clearbrook, Minnesota and to Enbridge’s Superior Station and Terminal Facility near Superior, Wisconsin. Once replaced, crude export capacity would increased from the current 390,000 bbl/day back to its original nameplate of 760,000 bbl/day. 

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