Judge to hear Alberta Clipper oil pipeline expansion challenge

Updated: 10 a.m. | Posted: 7:15 a.m.

A federal judge in Minneapolis will hear arguments Thursday in a lawsuit challenging the government's approval of a pipeline expansion.

Last year, Minnesota approved Enbridge Energy's plan to boost the capacity of its Alberta Clipper oil pipeline by 40 percent to 800,000 barrels per day. The pipeline carries oil from Canada's oil sands region across northern Minnesota to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wis.

A final federal permit has been delayed, but the State Department did approve a temporary workaround to divert oil to another pipeline to cross the Canadian border.

Several environmental groups and the White Earth Nation sued.

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"There's way too much oil that they're trying to get across the border into Minnesota with a lot of risk for us," said Winona LaDuke, an activist who works with Honor the Earth, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "We're not benefitting from it. The oil is going across our state, and all of the risk is being borne by northern Minnesota and the Ojibwe people."

The federal government should not have approved the plan before completing its environmental review, LaDuke said.

Enbridge has said the State Department acted lawfully and that the plan allows the company to meet its customers needs.

In a statement Thursday, the company said, "Enbridge is operating its pipelines consistent with the Presidential Permits and other permits that it holds for Lines 3 and 67, while meeting its responsibility and obligations to serve its shippers' needs. We believe that there is no merit to the claims of the Sierra Club and others."