In a webinar presented on Oct. 28 to an invited group of elected officials, Enbridge Energy communications staff estimated construction of the Line 3 Replacement pipeline will begin before the end of 2020.
However, on Oct. 27, Honor the Earth – an indigenous-led non-profit organization focused on environmental justice issues and located on the White Earth Reservation – filed a petition of investigation and complaint with the Public Utilities Commission, as well as a separate complaint against Enbridge Energy Inc.
The lawsuit was not mentioned on the informational webinar hosted by Enbridge on Oct. 28.
In a press release about the filing, Honor the Earth (HTE) Executive Director Winona LaDuke summarized the issues as, “Once again we see how the PUC has been played by Enbridge for a new pipeline that isn’t needed and could become a stranded asset, given the global impacts from the pandemic on the failing tar sands oil industry in Canada.”
As part of the Oct. 27 filing, Honor the Earth asked the PUC to investigate Enbridge for providing misleading information about the amount of petroleum the aging Line 3 pipeline can carry. In the petition, PUC was asked to look into the following:
• A number of efficiency-based capacity additions that Enbridge brought online between 2016 and 2020, that together have allowed Enbridge to import an additional 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil through Minnesota, including through expansions of Lines 2, 3, 4, and 65.
• Enbridge’s proposal to further expand the capacities of Lines 4 and 67 through Minnesota, by an additional 178,400 bpd.
• A decrease in demand for Canadian crude oil caused by the global response to COVID-19, that earlier this year caused imports to drop by approximately 400,000 bpd and cast doubt on future expansions of Canadian crude oil production.
In addition, Honor the Earth filed a separate complaint that Enbridge failed to apply for recertification of its increased pipeline capacity that was triggered by existing law if either the length or the capacity increases by more than 10%.
Paul Blackburn, staff attorney for Honor the Earth stated in the complaint that, “Federal data shows that Enbridge has already expanded the ‘effective’ capacity of its pipelines through northern Minnesota by approximately 400,000 bpd simply by using its existing pipelines more efficiently.
“Now, Enbridge has imminent plans to increase the capacity of Lines 4 and 67 by a total of 178,400 bpd,” he added. “Together, these efficiency-based expansions create far more capacity than would be provided by the proposed Line 3 Pipeline’s net capacity increase of 370,000 bpd. As a result, Enbridge has already met the need that formed the basis for the PUC’s approval of the Line 3 Replacement Project.”
Enbridge communications specialist Juli Kellner said on Oct. 28 , “the need for Line 3 replacement has been firmly established through the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission process and reaffirmed many times over the six year regulatory review of the project.”
INTERFAITH POWER AND LIGHT
Julia Frost Nerbonne is the executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, an advocacy group that partners with faith communities to address the climate crisis.
In response to last week’s filing, Nerbonne had this to say:
“The role of faith leaders is to consistently watch and pay attention, and when our legal system is not working as it should, to call it out,” she said. “Enbridge has been playing fast and loose with the rules, and we have faith leaders across the northland watching them.”
FOR LINE 3
Minnesotans for Line 3 is an industry advocacy group located in Duluth, Minnesota.
Susan Goudge, MN4L3 community representative, said, “The recent complaint filed by opponents of the Line 3 replacement is the latest stall tactic, trying to ‘re-ask’ a question that has been fully answered. MN4L3 is an advocacy group that supports moving forward with the replacement Line 3.”
Goudge added, “From our refineries to our regulatory experts, they have again and again said Minnesota needs Line 3. Agencies are already issuing permits to make sure work can start this year and there are people in every county across Minnesota who support this project because they know it’s time to move forward.”
“Opponents continuing to not accept this does not change the fact we need Line 3, and it is time for construction to start,” said Goudge.
The environmental advocacy organization MN350 is concerned that the proposed Line 3 replacement pipeline would cross over 200 bodies of water, including crossing the Mississippi River twice.
Andy Pearson of MN350 said on Friday that, “it falls to organizations like Honor the Earth to be vigilant and uncover the truth. The fact that Enbridge is ‘jumping the gun’ by starting preconstruction while the Department of Commerce lawsuit is still making its way through the courts is insulting to Minnesotans.”
Regarding the information that HTE uncovered, Pearson said that the filing shows ever more clearly the Line 3 replacement is not needed.
One of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permits Enbridge needs before beginning to drill under the Mississippi River is the 401 Certification. The 401 is the state sign-off on the Enbridge application to cross waterways under the Clean Water Act.
If MPCA signs off (approves) the application from Enbridge, it tells the federal regulatory agency that MPCA agrees with issuing the permit. If MPCA denies the application, it would be a hard stop to the project that would give the Minnesota Department of Commerce case time to work its way through the court of appeals.
A number of other states have recently denied permits for similar projects, creating precedents based on water quality concerns, climate concerns and need for the project.