One U.S. oil pipeline gained support from the Biden administration, a second acquired a new regulatory hurdle, and a third might soon find itself back in court, as federal data showed 19 pipeline projects pushing toward completion this year.
In a court filing Wednesday, the Biden Justice Department came down in favour of the Trump administration’s approval of Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, arguing that the Army Corps of Engineers properly considered the project’s environmental footprint.
“It asked the court to reject arguments brought by tribes and environmentalists that the federal government didn’t adequately assess the project’s environmental impacts and instead affirm the pipeline’s approval,” The Hill reports. “The project’s opponents criticized the decision, saying that support for the pipeline goes against President Biden’s promises on environmental justice.”
On the same day in Michigan, the Army Corps announced it would require a full environmental impact statement, rather than a simpler, less time-consuming environmental assessment, for the protective tunnel Enbridge wants to build for its Line 5 pipeline below the Straits of Mackinac. Jaime Pinkham, the U.S. Army’s acting assistant secretary for civil works, said the approach was appropriate for a project that could “significantly” affect the quality of the “human environment,” Bloomberg writes.
“[Michigan Governor Gretchen] Whitmer stood with the people as she raised the alarm on the risks associated with the Line 5 pipeline,” Bold Alliance founder Jane Kleeb, who also chairs the Nebraska Democratic Party, told Bloomberg in a statement. “It is our hope President Biden applies the same standard to reviewing and ending the KXL pipeline to other pipelines that are all risk and no reward.”
A day earlier, District Judge James Boasberg dismissed a bid by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to challenge the operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline while it awaits a proper environmental assessment. But he “outlined a path for a future legal challenge to an ongoing environmental review, should the tribe seek to make one,” The Canadian Press reports.
“Boasberg indicated if the tribe plans to challenge the outcome of the study it must do so in the form of a new lawsuit that would be assigned to his court,” the news agency says. “The judge also left open the possibility of reopening the case should any previous orders he made concerning the pipeline be violated.”
On Friday, the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. operators had completed two “petroleum liquids” pipeline projects so far this year, with another 19 under construction. By comparison, the country added 24 new pipelines in 2020, 30 in 2019, and 21 in 2018, all down from a recent high of 35 in 2014.
This year’s list includes 12 crude oil pipelines, six carrying hydrocarbon gas liquids, and one “petroleum product project”, the EIA said. Ten of the projects are new pipelines, seven are expansions or extensions of existing ones, and two involve changing the commodity an existing pipeline carries.