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Judge: Minn. should OK environmental study of oil pipeline plan

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Line 3 construction continues in Wisconsin
Construction continues on the Line 3 pipeline just across the border in Superior, Wis.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News file

A state judge on Wednesday recommended that Minnesota regulators approve an environmental study conducted for the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline project. 

Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman said the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission should deem the final environmental impact statement of the proposed Line 3 project "adequate." In his report, Lipman said the study sufficiently addressed impacts the proposed pipeline could have, along with proposed alternatives. 

Enbridge's plan would route a new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, passing through lakes, rivers and wetlands, which opponents say poses too great a threat of spills. The utility company says the project is necessary to replace its current Line 3 pipeline, which is corroding and not running at full capacity. 

The public utilities commission is expected to make a decision on the environmental study by the end of the year. 

Environmental groups argue there are significant flaws in the state's study. Last month, six Ojibwe bands fighting Line 3 announced the launching of their own environmental assessment of the pipeline, arguing the state's falls short.

In St. Paul, another adminstrative law judge began hearings this week on whether to issue Enbridge Energy the certificate of need permit that's required to build the pipeline. 

A final decision on the pipeline's fate is expected in April.