Line 3 oil pipeline project given final OK

Published 7:33 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

By Dan Kraker

MPR News/90.1 FM

Minnesota utility regulators have granted their final approval to the contentious Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.

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Opponents of the Line 3 project — including the state Commerce Department — petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider the approval it gave the project in June. The commission unanimously rejected that request Tuesday.

Now the process moves to the courts. Tribes and environmental groups have already sued to overturn the state’s approval of the environmental review conducted for Line 3. The Minnesota Court of Appeals held a hearing on that challenge last week.

Tribes, environmental groups and the Department of Commerce have filed separate challenges seeking to overturn the PUC’s approval of a certificate of need for Line 3.

And appeals have also been filed to block the commission’s granting of a route permit for the pipeline.

“That’s the process,” Commissioner Dan Lipschultz said during the PUC’s meeting Tuesday. “And I don’t think any of us begrudge an appeal to the court of appeals. That’s the check, and part of the checks and balances that we have in our system.”

Last year, the PUC approved Enbridge’s plan for replacing its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, which has been transporting oil from Alberta, Canada, since the 1960s. The company said at the time that it anticipated having the new pipeline in service by the end of 2019.

But the company still needs several state and federal permits before it can break ground on the project in Minnesota. And earlier this month, the state of Minnesota gave the company a timeline for issuing those permits that will likely put the new line in operation in the second half of 2020.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency told the company it expects to issues its permits by November 2019. Within a month or two after that, the company expects to secure its remaining federal permits.