A day after state regulators granted a critical approval for a new pipeline across northern Minnesota, both supporters and opponents of Enbridge Energy's Line 3 are preparing for months of continuing debate before ground is broken on the project.
"This isn't the end," said Guy Jarvis, Enbridge president of Enbridge's Liquids Pipelines group. "In many respects, this is just another step in the ongoing engagement that's going to be required."
Jarvis anticipates that opponents will ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a rehearing on the Certificate of Need and route permit that were approved Thursday. And he said once that's resolved the company can seek local and federal permits it needs to begin laying pipe.
Although none of those requests are expected to take as long as the nearly four-year PUC process, it still means months before digging can begin.
"Once you have all of that it's still several months of mobilization before you're actually out doing significant construction," Jarvis said. "So our view would be that it's probably not going to be until the early part of next year when that construction would start."
Opponents, too, are preparing for months of continued challenges — not just in bureaucracies and courtrooms, but on the ground along the proposed Line 3 route.
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On Friday, about 20 opponents gathered near the border south of Duluth where Line 3 will cross into Wisconsin, where construction has already begun.
"This is where it stops for us," said Andy Pearson of the anti-pipeline group Minnesota 350. "We're not letting the pipeline get any further, and we're all committed to that here."
They'll do everything in their power to stop Line 3 from being built, said Winona Laduke, executive director of the Ojibwe-led group Honor the Earth. LaDuke has purchased land near Park Rapids in central Minnesota where she says pipeline opponents will be able to camp.
"We will be out on this line, and we will stop this in the regulatory process, we will stop this in the legal process, and we will stop this with our bodies," she said.