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Enbridge Delays Line 3 Pipeline by One Year as State Regulatory Battle Continues

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. has announced a one-year delay in completing its controversial Line 3 pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, less than a month after newly-elected Minnesota Governor Tim Walz pledged to appeal the project’s regulatory approval in his state.

Just two weeks earlier, the company had promised the C$9-billion, 370,000-barrel-per project would be complete this year, CBC reports.

“Permits from the state of Minnesota were expected to be finalized by the second quarter of 2019, but now they won’t be provided until November, with U.S. federal permits expected to be finalized one to two months later,” CBC reports. “Construction began on the Canadian portion of Line 3’s replacement in 2017 and the project is largely completed—but it has faced challenges in Minnesota, where the state’s governor has pursued an appeal, siding with environmental and Indigenous groups opposed to the pipeline.”

Project opponents “have said it will aggravate climate change, and they worry leaks could happen over the Mississippi River headwaters region—land that is used for the traditional harvest of wild rice,” CBC adds.

The state Public Utilities Commission approved Line 3 last summer, prompting opponents to vow that the project would become the United States’ “next Standing Rock”. The five PUC members unanimously backed the project, “though some cited heavy trepidation, and a narrow majority later approved the company’s preferred route despite opposition from American Indian tribes and climate change activists,” CBC reported at the time. “Several commissioners cited the deteriorating condition of the existing line, which was built in the 1960s, as a major factor in their decision.”

“It’s irrefutable that that pipeline is an accident waiting to happen,” said Commissioner Dan Lipschultz. “It feels like a gun to our head…All I can say is the gun is real and it’s loaded.” Commissioner Katie Sieben said the decision was “so tough because there is no good outcome.” PUC Chair Nancy Lange “choked up and took off her glasses to wipe her eyes as she described her reasoning for approving the project.”

The state Department of Commerce and several opposing groups eventually appealed the decision. Then in early February, The Canadian Press recounts, the Minnesota Court of Appeals “dismissed those appeals as premature and sent the dispute back to the commission for further proceedings. That move forced the Walz administration to take a stand,” after weeks of “studying whether to continue to appeal or let the matter drop.”

“When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science,” Walz said in a statement. “The Dayton Administration’s appeal of the PUC’s decision is now a part of this process. By continuing that process, our Administration will raise the Department of Commerce’s concerns to the court in hopes of gaining further clarity for all involved.”