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Minnesota Department of Commerce asks the PUC to reconsider Line 3 approval — again

Environmental groups and Minnesota tribes also asked the PUC to reconsider its approval of the controversial pipeline as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on.

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A tanker truck passes by an Enbridge storage tank. Forum News Service file photo
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A state agency, environmental groups and Minnesota tribes are asking state regulators to reconsider approval of Enbridge's proposed Line 3 oil pipeline.

On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Division of Energy Resources filed a request for reconsideration asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to revisit its February approval of Line 3's certificate of need. The department said the PUC did not consider a long-range demand forecast because Enbridge instead submitted a pipeline utilization forecast that assumed demand would continue at 2016 refinery capacity.

"The (PUC) instead shifted the burden to other parties to produce evidence showing that demand would decrease during the forecast period, compounding its legal error," the Department of Commerce wrote. "The Department respectfully requests that the Commission reconsider its decision to grant a (certificate of need) to Enbridge."

The department has made similar arguments against the certificate of need repeatedly since 2018 .

In a joint petition, a coalition of environmental groups and Minnesota tribes — The Red Lake Band of Chippewa, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Honor the Earth, Youth Climate Intervenors and the Sierra Club — urged the PUC to reconsider in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing demand for oil to fall. Enbridge is also moving less oil across its pipelines.

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“Joint Petitioners believe that the Commission should at a minimum take account of the unprecedented events that are reshaping the oil industry by requiring a supplemental evidentiary hearing for the Line 3 Route Permit and Certificate of Need,” the groups wrote.

Friends of the Headwaters also filed a petition.

The PUC voted 3-1 in February to reapprove Line 3’s certificate of need and route permit for the proposed 340-mile pipeline across Minnesota.

Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner pointed to the PUC's written order, which specifies the PUC must look at long-range forecasts and not short-term fluctuations in oil markets when considering if a pipeline is needed.

"The filings reiterate many of the same issues the (PUC) has previously considered and rejected," Kellner said. "The PUC has repeatedly approved Line 3’s revised Environmental Impact Statement, Certificate of Need and Route Permit."

The PUC has 60 days to either accept or reject the petitions for reconsideration. If it rejects the petitions, parties can ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to review the case.

Enbridge still needs numerous permits before construction can begin on the Minnesota section of Line 3. The Canadian and Wisconsin sections are already in service.

Once complete, the pipeline will ferry 760,000 barrels of oil (31.92 million gallons) per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.

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Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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