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Dayton: No 'viable way' to build new Line 3 pipeline on current route

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Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton
Leila Navidi | Star Tribune pool via AP file

Gov. Mark Dayton said he doesn't see "any viable way" for Enbridge Energy to build its replacement Line 3 oil pipeline along its current route, as a judge recommended earlier this week.  

Line 3 currently runs through two tribal lands in northern Minnesota: the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations. Enbridge wants to replace the aging pipeline along a new route that avoids the reservations in part of a plan that's raising growing opposition from environmentalists and tribes, among others. 

Administrative law judge Ann O'Reilly issued a non-binding recommendation on Monday that Minnesota regulators should approve the pipeline, but only if it runs along the current route and not Enbridge Energy's preferred new path. 

The governor said he is not taking a position on the issue until the Public Utilities Commission decides whether to give Enbridge its blessing to construct the Line 3 replacement. But he said the judge's recommendation doesn't seem feasible. 

"I don't see any viable way that that could be attempted or should be attempted going through the two tribal lands," Dayton said. "And given their adamant position they're against anything like that, I don't see how that's viable."

The governor made his remarks at the Capitol Wednesday to a group of students attending a question-and-answer session as part of the Youth Climate Justice Summit, an annual event organized by the nonprofit Climate Generation with support from other environmental organizations. 

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has denounced the judge's recommendation, calling it "a clear attack on sovereignty and Tribal communities."

The governor said he hadn't yet read the judge's entire report as of Wednesday morning, but that he will "very soon."

The PUC is expected to decide in June whether to grant Enbridge the certificate of need that's required to go forward with the project.