Key win for Enbridge oil line as Minnesota court affirms regulator approval
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed a state regulator's decision that there is sufficient need for Enbridge Inc to replace its Line 3 pipeline, handing the Canadian company a crucial victory in its lengthy battle with environmental opponents.
The decision marks another hurdle cleared for Enbridge's efforts to replace the aging pipeline that carries Alberta oil sands crude through the state.
Line 3, which entered service in 1968, ships crude from Alberta to U.S. Midwest refiners, and carries less oil than it was designed for because of age and corrosion. Replacing the pipeline would allow Enbridge to roughly double its capacity to 760,000 barrels per day.
The pipeline is opposed by environmental activists and indigenous groups who say they fear spills will mar wetlands and other sensitive areas from a conduit that is not needed.
In response to a legal challenge by environmental and tribal groups, a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to affirm the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's decision to grant Enbridge a key permit for the project.
"While reasonable minds may differ on the central question of need for replacement Line 3, substantial evidence supports the commission's decision to issue a certificate of need," wrote Judge Lucinda Jesson.
The judges said the commission had addressed concerns about the impacts of potential oil spills on the Lake Superior watershed and selected a route based on tribal sovereignty that minimized environmental impacts.
The decision comes a week after hundreds of pipeline protesters disrupted construction and clashed with police on Line 3. The Canadian and North Dakota sections of the pipeline are finished and it is 60% complete in Minnesota.
Enbridge expects the line to come into service in the fourth quarter of this year.
The Minnesota Supreme Court could hear a further appeal.
"Today's court decision is a step backwards, but not the end of this years-long fight to protect the health and livability of our state and climate," said Brent Murcia, of the Youth Climate Intervenors.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)
© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.