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Minnesota regulators to chart next steps for Enbridge Line 3 project

ST. PAUL — State regulators next week are set to decide what steps they should take next in weighing the construction of a crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 1, will take up the environmental impact statement for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project and consider what additional hearings might be needed to revise the statement.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in June ruled the environmental review of the proposed pipeline project was "inadequate" because it did not consider the effects of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed. But the court said many other points disputed in the final environmental impact statement, including the pipeline’s impact on tribal resources, met required standards.

Tribal and environmental groups asked the state Supreme Court to review the other disputed points, but the court last week denied the request to take up the case. The move sends the proposal back to state regulators at the Public Utilities Commission for revisions.

Briefing documents filed Tuesday, Sept. 24, note the commission could ask the state Department of Commerce to revise its environmental assessment of the project to include the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed and submit that to the commission within 60 days or agree to another appropriate action.

The Public Utilities Commission in 2018 approved the $2.6 billion project that would replace Enbridge's existing 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis.

A spokeswoman for Calgary-based Enbridge last week said the PUC's guidance will help the company set its timeline for permitting and hiring. Enbridge will need to secure several environmental permits before it can begin its construction. It will also need final approval from the Public Utilities Commission.

Both could generate additional legal challenges from opponents of the replacement project. Opponents of the project are set to rally at Gichi-Ode' Akiing, on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Saturday to demonstrate against the construction of a replacement pipeline.