The State of Minnesota is suing itself over its approval of a new Line 3 pipeline corridor. On Friday, December 21, the Department of Commerce of outgoing Governor Mark Dayton’s administration joined tribal governments and environmental groups in filing lawsuits with the MN Court of Appeals, asking them to overturn the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decision to grant a Certificate of Need for the project. This brings the total number of active Line 3 lawsuits against the State of Minnesota to 7, with more likely on the way.
The first 3 were filed in August 2018 by the Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth Bands of Ojibwe, and non-profit organizations Honor the Earth and Friends of the Headwaters, contesting the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared for Line 3. The 4 filed this week contest the Certificate of Need - one filing by the Department of Commerce, one by the Youth Climate Intervenors, one by Friends of the Headwaters, and one joint filing (read the whole thing here) by the White Earth and Red Lake Bands of Ojibwe, Honor the Earth, and Sierra Club. Additional appeals of the PUC’s issuance of a Route Permit are expected soon.
“For over 500 years we have been fighting for our land and people, and the bottom line is that our futures are at stake with this pipeline. We refuse to accept defeat at the hands of these greedy corporations and we will never stop fighting.”
- Nina Berglund, a 19 year-old Northern Cheyenne and Oglala Lakota woman and member of the Youth Climate Intervenors
Governor Dayton said in a statement that he strongly supports the appeal filed by his Department of Commerce. “Enbridge failed to provide a future demand forecast for its product, which is required by state law. Instead, the company presented its analysis of the future oil supply from Canadian tar sands extractions. It failed to demonstrate that Minnesota needs this pipeline to meet our future oil demand. In fact, most of the product would flow through our state to supply other states and countries,” Dayton said.
Governor Dayton’s assertive opposition to the project is a testament to this Indigenous-led campaign’s 5 years of relentless advocacy and grassroots resistance, and another sign of how different the world is after the historic siege at Standing Rock. For the first 2-3 years, Governor Dayton was a strong supporter of the proposed new Sandpiper/Line 3 corridor, often mindlessly repeating industry propaganda like “it’s better than oil trains” or “we all need oil.” Gradually he began to change his mind, and this week marks his strongest opposition yet. Successfully pushing him to take action to stop the pipeline has been one our greatest accomplishments.
Although Dayton’s Department of Commerce was the agency that prepared the EIS, a document clearly designed to prepare the rubber stamps of approval, their position changed dramatically as the study was being finished and other evidence brought to light. In the end, they testified formally against the project, arguing a lack of economic need and highlighting the enormous impact on Indigenous rights and the environment. They argued against approval even as the PUC ignored their expert testimony and plowed ahead. And as the PUC considered conditions to require of Enbridge, Commerce recommended they reject Enbridge's plan for Line 3 liability insurance, saying that it would not be sufficient to cover an oil spill, and recommended they reject Enbridge’s plan for a decommissioning trust fund (to provide money for the removal of the pipeline decades in the future) arguing that it wasn’t compatible with state law. Now they are going beyond what any of us imagined, and taking the battle to court.
While these lawsuits proceed at the Court of Appeals, Enbridge is going after the other 20+ permits it needs from the State of Minnesota. The MN Pollution Control Agency (PCA) is expected to begin a public input process soon for the Section 401 Clean Water Certifications it must issue for Line 3 before construction can begin. Stay tuned for calls to action.
Also, the federal review process is finally underway - please submit comments! The US Army Corps of Engineers began its permitting process for Line 3 last week. Enbridge needs permits from the Army Corps in order to cross navigable waters and wetlands. Of the 211 waterbodies that the new pipeline corridor would cross, three are considered “nagivable waters” - the Red River of the North along the ND border in Kittson County, the Red Lake River in Pennington County, and the Mississippi River in Aitkin County. Of the 330 mile new route, the proposed pipeline would cross 78 miles of wetlands, impacting over 1,000 acres of wetland temporarily during construction, and 11 acres permanently.
The Army Corps is starting this public input process before the completion of the Tribal Cultural Surveys, for which the impacted Ojibwe governments have fought hard. The public comment period notice says that “as a result of USACE consultation with the interested tribes, which was initiated in September of 2015, Tribal Cultural Surveys are being conducted along the entire Project corridor...Any adverse effects on historic properties will be resolved prior to USACE authorization, or approval, of the work in connection with the Project.” But no results of the surveys have yet been provided for the public to comment on.
The Army Corps is accepting public comments through Jan. 21, 2019. If you are able, please submit a comment to voice your opinion about the pipeline, and request a public hearing:
Email - CEMVP-L3R-PN-Comments@usace.army.mil
Mail - St. Paul District Corps of Engineers, 180 5th Street E., Suite 700, Saint Paul MN 55101