Court of Appeals upholds Line 3 water quality certification

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s approval of the water quality certification for Enbridge’s Line 3, dealing another legal blow to opponents seeking to stop the pipeline as it nears completion.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, and Friends of the Headwaters had alleged that the MPCA made a legal error in approving the water quality certification. The groups contend the MPCA should have considered alternative routes, was wrong when it determined that the project would comply with state water-quality and wetlands standards, and improperly limited the scope of its authority.

The appeals court concluded that the MPCA’s decision "is supported by substantial evidence in the record" and affirmed the agency’s decision.

The appeals court determined that the MPCA was correct to not consider alternate routes because the Public Utilities Commission has the sole authority to approve the pipeline route and had not included any other route for the MPCA to consider. The court also wrote that opponents did not identify a rule they claim was violated when the MPCA did not consider the effects of climate change.

Opponents have made numerous legal challenges to the pipeline, and this is the fifth time the Court of Appeals has ruled on the project. Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined requests to reconsider several key approvals for the project.

Honor the Earth pledged to continue efforts to stop the pipeline.

"Once again the courts have failed the Anishinaabe and its treaties, the people of Minnesota and the protection of our mutually shared natural resources. We will continue to press our case in tribal court whenever appropriate, and continue to resist the operation of Line 3 for the good of the state and the planet at a time of growing climate turmoil," said Paul Blackburn, Attorney for Honor the Earth, in a statement to media.

Enbridge called Monday’s decision a confirmation that wetlands and waterbodies are being appropriately protected during construction.

"Replacing existing Line 3 is about safety and maintenance. Upgrading an aging line with new pipe made of thicker steel with technologically advanced coatings will better protect Minnesota’s environment for generations to come. The thorough, robust, science-based review of the project over the past six years has led to a series of evidence-based approvals," an Enbridge statement read.

Enbridge said the Line 3 project is nearly complete and is expected to be in service by the end of the year.

Line 3 runs from Alberta to Superior. The replacement pipeline follows the existing pipeline corridor in some areas, but the new line takes a different route through north-central Minnesota.