ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota pollution regulators properly considered the construction impacts of Enbridge Energy's plan to replace the 337-mile segment of its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline that crosses the state, an administrative law judge ruled Friday in a blow to environmental and tribal groups fighting the project.
Judge James LaFave issued the opinion following a request by opponents for a trial-like “contested case hearing" on the draft water permits for the project, which the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approved in February. He held that proceeding over the summer.
LaFave wrote that the challengers “failed to prove” both that the project would permanently impact water quality and wetlands; and that the MPCA and Enbridge had undercounted the amount of wetlands that would be affected. The pipeline would cross 212 streams and impact over 700 acres of wetlands in northern Minnesota.
The MPCA must decide whether to issue final water quality permits by mid-November, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.
Line 3 runs from Alberta, Canada, to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Calgary-based Enbridge has already replaced the segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The company wants to replace the entire line, which was built in the 1960s, because the older sections are corroding, so the pipeline can run at only half its original capacity.
The opponents say the Canadian tar sands oil that the new line would carry would aggravate climate change, while threatening pristine waters in northern Minnesota where Native Americans harvest wild rice.
On a separate track, the state Commerce Department has gone to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to challenge the approval of the overall project by the independent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.