In a second round of revisions released Monday, an environmental impact statement for Enbridge Energy's Line 3 project was expanded to include specific information on a potential oil spill in the Lake Superior watershed.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce's Energy Environmental Review and Analysis unit (DOC-EERA) released its reviewed environmental impact statement on the Line 3 project, showing oil would likely not reach Lake Superior in the event of a pipeline spill.
Advocacy group Minnesotans for Line 3 called the announcement of the revised report "great news."
"The release of the updated EIS is great news and another important step forward to finally complete what has been the most thorough and exhaustive review of a pipeline project in Minnesota’s history. … It’s clearly time for the permitting process to move forward and today’s news helps make that possible," the statement read.
Calling the project a "dirty tar sands pipeline," Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin wrote in a news release that the review is "inadequate."
"Even on this court-ordered third try, the (Public Utilities Commission) has produced yet another inadequate review that fails to recognize that this pipeline would pose an unacceptable risk to Minnesota's clean water and should never be built," the release said.
The report modeled a potential spill on the proposed pipeline's intersection with Little Otter Creek. The pipeline would run for 340 miles from the northwest corner of the state near Kittson County down to a site in Superior.
The department chose Little Otter Creek because a hypothetical oil spill is more likely to reach the St. Louis River — which flows into Lake Superior — compared to other models.
Using an independent oil spill expert to review the modeling results, the department shared that floating oil would remain on the water after 24 hours, according to a letter from Louise Miltich, supervisor of the DOC-EERA.
The oil could reach the Fond du Lac Dam, depending on the oil type and seasonal river flow. At the dam, turbulent water below the dam could cause the oil to mix into the water column. As the oil resurfaces, the movement of oil would slow.
"The most significant environmental effects of the spilled oil would be the potential for effects on fish as concentrations of toxic components of the oil in the water column may be high for short periods of time due to entrainment and dissolution in the turbulent waters in rapids and in the overflow of the Fond du Lac Dam," Miltich wrote.
Beyond the dam and rapids, wind would drive the movement of oil on the water's surface. The winding curves of the St. Louis River make it unlikely that the oil would reach the entrance to Lake Superior, the letter reads.
Any remaining oil on the water's surface after 24 hours would likely wash ashore on the shorelines.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals directed the agency to update the report after it determined a previous environmental review "inadequate" because it did not consider the effects of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requested more information on these effects, as well.