Oil and water: The Line 3 debate

State regulators approve Line 3 permits; move pipeline closer to construction

Enbridge's Superior Terminal receives the majority of its oil from Canada.
Enbridge's Superior Terminal as seen from the air in February 2018 over Superior, Wis. The terminal receives a vast majority of its oil from Canada --and a lesser amount from North Dakota. According to Enbridge, 21 percent of all daily U.S. crude oil imports pass through the facility.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News file 2018

State environmental regulators issued several key permits Thursday that move Enbridge Energy closer to building its controversial Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency both approved permits for the Line 3 project.

Now, Enbridge just needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an additional permit that's expected from the MPCA in the next month. The MPCA’s decision this week will trigger a decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its permit. 

At that point, Enbridge could begin work on the project — which would replace an existing, aging pipeline that at nearly 60 years in operation, is deteriorating and can only transport about half the oil it was designed for, with a new, larger line along a different route across northern Minnesota.

An Enbridge spokesperson said only that the company would begin construction once it has all approvals in hand. Kevin Pranis, a spokesperson for the LIUNA union, whose members plan to work on the project, said they expect construction to begin in the next month.

Once it does, Enbridge says construction will take six to nine months.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which regulates state utilities and pipelines, gave the Line 3 project its stamp of approval for the second time earlier this year. The PUC originally granted a required certificate of need and route permit for the project in 2018, but had to vote again on the proposal after a court ordered that the project’s environmental review needed to be revised. 

In the meantime, the project has been held up by legal challenges, including one that the state Commerce Department renewed in August. An array of environmental and tribal groups oppose the project, arguing that it will contribute to climate change and risk oil spills in northern Minnesota waterways.

Supporters argue that the new pipeline will be safer than the current line, and that it will create thousands of construction jobs.

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