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Appeal of Line 3 pipeline project filed by Minnesota governor’s administration

Enbridge launches construction on Line 3 replacement program. Crews get to work in Hardisty, Alta. on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.
Enbridge launches construction on Line 3 replacement program. Crews get to work in Hardisty, Alta. on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Kent Morrison, Global News

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration on Friday appealed a state regulatory panel’s approval of Enbridge’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce said the Public Utilities Commission got its decisions wrong because Enbridge did not introduce, and the panel did not properly evaluate, the kind of long-range oil demand forecast required by state law.

Dayton, who leaves office Jan. 7, said in a statement that he strongly supports the appeal. He said Enbridge “failed to demonstrate that Minnesota needs this pipeline to meet our future oil demand. In fact, most of the product would flow through our state to supply other states and countries.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline proposal

Watch below: In August 2017, Kent Morrison filed this report about the Line 3 replacement project and the optimism it is generating in Alberta.

Optimism growing in Alberta town over Enbridge’s Line 3 project
Optimism growing in Alberta town over Enbridge’s Line 3 project

Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, crosses northern Minnesota and a corner of North Dakota on its way from Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis. Enbridge says it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking and can carry only about half its original capacity.

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Environmental and tribal groups that have been fighting the project argue that the replacement will accelerate climate change because it will carry oil from the Alberta oilsands, which generates more climate-warming carbon dioxide during the production process than regular oil. They also say it risks oil spills in the Mississippi River headwaters region, including pristine waters where the Ojibwe harvest wild rice.

READ MORE: Opponents of Line 3 pipeline replacement project file appeals in Minnesota

Those groups filed their appeals earlier in the week and welcomed the Commerce Department’s decision to join them.

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Alberta’s NDP government said they support the Line 3 project and “have made our case south of the border.”

“Line 3 is about creating good jobs, growing Alberta’s — and Canada’s — economy and ensuring we have safe, modern infrastructure to transport our energy resources to market while protecting the environment,” Shannon Greer said. “We will not stop fighting to get fair value for the resources that all Albertans own.”

The PUC decided this summer to grant a certificate of need and route permit for the project. It unanimously reaffirmed its approval of the certificate of need last month and the route permit last week, clearing the way for the opponents to turn to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

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Enbridge spokeswoman Judi Kellner said in a statement that Dayton’s statement is “very disappointing and erroneous,” and that his Commerce Department’s claims “are not supported by evidence or Minnesota law.”

Kellner said Calgary-based Enbridge provided multiple, detailed forecasts showing that there will be demand for the restored capacity on the Line 3 replacement for years to come, and that Enbridge believes the courts will affirm the PUC’s decisions.

While Dayton appointed all five members of the commission, the panel operates independently. The PUC issued a statement saying it stands by its decision to grant the certificate of need, the central issue in the appeals filed this week. Separate appeals of the route permit are expected later.

“The Commission based its decision in this proceeding on the applicable law and a full evidentiary record after vigorous input and participation by the litigants and the public,” the panel said.

Construction preparations are underway in Minnesota and the short segments in Wisconsin and North Dakota are already in operation. Enbridge expects to complete the work in Canada by July 1 and put the full replacement pipeline into service in late 2019.