Minnesota court upholds Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline permit

By Robert Tuttle on 6/14/2021
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CALGARY (Bloomberg) - A key permit for Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 oil pipeline was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, removing a potential delay for the controversial project.

The court on Monday affirmed a Certificate of Need and Routing Permit granted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The pipeline, which will carry Canadian oil-sands crude from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, has faced fierce opposition from indigenous and environmental groups, who clashed with law enforcement last week.

Canada’s oil sands producers have struggled for years with a shortage of export conduits as projects to build new ones face increasing scrutiny from courts and regulators. U.S. President Joe Biden, on his first day in office, rescinded a permit for TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline that would have helped increase shipments of Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The company last week finally canceled the project after more than a decade since first proposing it.

Enbridge’s replacement of Line 3 with a larger capacity pipeline that can transport 760,000 barrels of oil a day is “on track” to go into operation in the fourth quarter of this year, the Calgary-based company said in an emailed statement. The pipeline is complete in Canada, Wisconsin and North Dakota, and 60% complete in Minnesota.

“The decision is not unexpected,” Juli Kellner, an Enbridge spokeswoman, said in the statement. “Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review.”

Last week, more than 200 protesters were arrested after they clashed with law enforcement at a Line 3 pump station. Another group set up camp at a site along the Mississippi headwaters, where Line 3 will pass beneath the waterway. On Sunday, Enbridge said it issued a letter asking the protesters to leave.

Environmental group Sierra Club said the court’s Line 3 decision was “deeply disappointing.”

The ruling “paves the way for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to continue to disregard the health of our communities, water, and climate,” Margaret Levin, state director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, said by email.

The Canadian pipeline giant is also facing opposition to its Line 5 pipeline, which crosses the Great Lakes along the bed of the Straits of Mackinac. The company wants to make the pipeline more secure by building a tunnel under the lake bed, but Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the line shut. Enbridge has appealed that decision, and the case is now in court-ordered mediation.

In both cases, Enbridge has argued that the projects will make the lines environmentally safer. Line 3 was built in the 1960s, and Line 5 in the 1950s.

Shares of Enbridge were up 1.6% to C$49.05 as of 1:30 p.m. in Toronto. They’ve risen about 20% this year.

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