MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota regulators granted a stack of important permits and approvals Thursday for Enbridge Energy’s planned Line 3 pipeline replacement across northern Minnesota, setting the long-delayed $2.6 billion project on the road toward beginning construction soon.
The approvals from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources clear the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the remaining federal permits. The MPCA could then approve a final construction storm water permit that’s meant to protect surface waters from pollutant runoff.
MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said in a statement that her agency’s approval “requires Enbridge to meet Minnesota’s extensive water quality standards instead of lower federal standards.”
Environmental and tribal groups have been fighting the project for years. They contend it threatens pristine waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice and that the Canadian tar sands oil it would carry would aggravate climate change.
“The science is clear that Line 3 would threaten Minnesota’s clean water and set back our state’s progress on climate at a time when we can least afford it,” Margaret Levin, director of the Sierra Club’s Minnesota chapter, said in a statement that raised the possibility of further legal challenges.
But Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge welcomed the approvals, saying in a statement that it recognizes that the permit conditions required by the two state agencies “are essential for protecting Minnesota’s sensitive streams and wild rice waters.”
Line 3 — which runs from Alberta across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin — was built in the 1960s and can run at only about half its original capacity. Enbridge says replacing it will allow it to move oil more safely while creating 4,200 construction jobs and generating millions of dollars in local spending and tax revenues. The updated sections in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already operating.