A six-year regulatory ordeal ended in success Thursday for Enbridge Inc. when Minnesota agencies awarded permits for a 340-mile leg across the state in its Line 3 oil export pipe replacement program.
“Clearly this is a big day for Line 3 in Minnesota,” said Enbridge Vice President Leo Golden. “These authorizations and approvals are an important step towards construction for this safety and maintenance focused replacement project.”
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) granted water quality certification for stream and wetland crossings. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources gave its final eight permits for other aspects of the state’s $2.6 billion share of the project.
The decisions followed a verdict Oct. 16 by MPCA Administrative Law Judge James LaFave against environmentalist and native opposition ruling in favor of a water permit that the agency drafted after an extensive review.
The Minnesota permits enable final United States federal approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Enbridge has predicted construction would start before the end of 2020 if the regulatory process finishes without further delay.
All other legs of the $9 billion, 1,031-mile pipe 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.
Despite the Thursday approvals, the political pipeline protest continues. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, in August directed the state commerce department to try a challenge in the Minnesota Court of Appeals against Line 3’s approval by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). A court ruling is pending.
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