Permits approved on Monday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will allow Enbridge Inc. to keep alive a plan to start construction by the end of the year on the $2.6 billion Minnesota leg of its Line 3 oil pipeline replacement program.

Enbridge

The 340-mile pipeline segment has been inching closer to construction for a few weeks. 

“Our decision is based on sound science and strikes the balance between protecting natural resources and allowing reasonable development,” said Army Corps’ Karl Jansen, district commander in St. Paul, MN.

Enbridge Vice President Leo Golden said the project “now moves closer to the start of construction, hopefully before the end of the year. Final state permits and authorizations are still needed before work can begin.”

Federal approval arrived 11 days after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and state resources department granted nine Line 3 permits. 

Construction only awaits a final MPCA permit for stormwater runoff and formal authorization by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to implement its previous approvals.

Court challenges by environmental and fossil fuel foes still seek to prolong the project’s six-year Minnesota regulatory ordeal. However, the protest lawsuits have failed to win any injunctions that would prevent construction.

Thirty native tribes participated in the approval case before the Army Corps, noted Calgary-based Enbridge. 

“One key permitting input was the Tribal Cultural Resource Survey of the entire route of Line 3, which was managed by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa,” said management. “The survey was the longest and most extensive of its kind for an energy project.”

All other legs of the total $9 billion, 1,031-mile replacement project have been completed in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Canadian shippers, led by the country’s top natural gas user, Alberta thermal oilsands production, are forecast to gain 370,000 b/d of export capacity because the new pipe would enable the 52-year-old Line 3 to increase operating pressure.