A Minnesota regulator ruled on Feb. 3 that a revised environmental impact statement for Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 oil pipeline replacement is adequate, helping to clear a significant hurdle for the long-delayed project.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 to find the revised statement from the state's Department of Commerce adequate. It was to move the afternoon of Feb. 3 to consider reissuing a certificate of need and route permit for the project.
Enbridge shares jumped 1.5%, hitting their highest level since May 2017.
Line 3, built in the 1960s, carries oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to Superior, Wis. Because of age and corrosion, it carries less oil than it was designed to transport.
Enbridge has argued that replacing it will reduce the chances of leaks.
Replacing Line 3 would allow Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge to double its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day, providing relief to congested pipelines carrying Canada's oil.
A shortage of pipeline capacity has forced the Alberta government to curtail production.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce revised its environmental impact statement for Line 3 after the Minnesota Court of Appeal ruled last June that the original statement was insufficient regarding a single issue—assessment of a potential spill on Lake Superior and its watershed.
At Monday's hearing, Line 3 opponents urged the regulator to stop the project.
"I see continuous permitting and continuous risk," said Frank Bibeau, representing the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. “It's just giving them something for free at our risk and peril.”
A spill would be "catastrophic" to Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and its way of life, including its wild rice harvesting, said Benjamin Benoit, the band's environment director.
Enbridge lawyer Christy Brusven argued the revised environmental statement achieved what the court ordered—addressing a spill impact on the watershed. Opponents' arguments that modeling should have been done at more than one location exceed the court's ruling, she said.
Oil can also spill if it travels by rail, the main alternative to pipelines, said Kevin Pranis, a spokesman for Laborers International Union of North America, which supports the project because of the jobs it would create.
The purpose of opposition "is indefinite delay," he said.
The Line 3 project is one of three, along with TC Energy Corp.'s Keystone XL and the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain, that have been stalled for years by opposition.