The challenge: a new pipeline that risks our climate and water
Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company, has proposed moving and expanding its Line 3 pipeline that carries tar sands petroleum from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. If a new Line 3 is built, it would nearly double the capacity of the line. A new Line 3 route would cross dozens of rivers, streams, and wetlands, and would cross both reservation lands and ceded territory for several Ojibwe bands in northern Minnesota. The Red Lake and White Earth Nations, among other parties, are suing to prevent the Line 3 proposal from moving forward, and are waiting for rulings in state and federal court. The legal challenges to the Line 3 proposal include appeals of the “certificate of need” for the pipeline expansion, challenges to the environmental review of the proposal, and challenges to the permits for the construction of the new pipeline.
MCEA is opposed to Line 3 because of the climate impact, the potential for damaging some of Minnesota’s most precious water resources, and harm to the territory of Ojibwe nations challenging the pipeline. Line 3 would accelerate development of Canadian tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest sources of petroleum in the world. If Minnesota (and the rest of the world) is going to reach our climate goals, we cannot afford to spend billions of dollars on new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The Youth Climate Intervenors
The Youth Climate Intervenors are an unaffiliated group of young people who have banded together to oppose Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline replacement. They requested the right to participate in the administrative hearing for the Line 3 project in 2017 as an official “party” on the basis that the extraction of more tar sands oil would exacerbate the dangerous climate crisis already threatening our health and well-being. They were successful, and proceeded to cross-examine oil industry witnesses and bring in testimony from climate experts, all without the help of legal counsel.
As the leading public interest environmental law organization in Minnesota, MCEA staff attorneys supervise the Environment and Energy Law Clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School. One of the clients of the Environmental Law Clinic is the Youth Climate Intervenors who have sued to stop Line 3. MCEA staff attorneys advise and oversee the student attorneys in the clinic who represent the Youth Climate Intervenors.
Now that the Line 3 case has moved from an administrative hearing to the Minnesota courts, MCEA is proud to have served as Youth Climate Intervenors’ legal counsel since 2018 in order to help them continue the fight for their future.
“Our generation faces a daunting future, and so we are compelled to fight for our right to the privileges and stability that generations before us took for granted … The resources meant to be held in trust for future generations have been squandered away by the governments that are meant to protect us, and so we feel that it is both reasonable and necessary that we are granted a seat at the table to argue for their protection ourselves.”
- Youth Climate Intervenors' official petition to intervene in the Line 3 case
“We really know the legal record on this inside and out. It’s really powerful that a group of high school and college students and recent grads just spent two years going toe-to-toe with the legal muscle of the fossil fuel industry.”
Brent Murcia, Youth Climate Intervenor and supervising student attorney for the YCI Line 3 appeal
Minnesota Supreme Court denies PFR
On August 24th, The Minnesota Supreme Court denied the Petition For Review (PFR) filed by the Youth Climate Intervenors, et al., Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, et al., Friends of the Headwaters, and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Youth Climate intervenors submit petition for review (PFR) to Minnesota Supreme Court
Because the Supreme Court is not required to take every case, the YCI had to petition the Minnesota Supreme Court to hear the Line 3 matter. YCI and allied groups submitted their petitions in July. The Court has until early October to decide whether it will take the case. If accepted, the case will be briefed and argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Court of Appeals issues decision on Line 3 appeal
A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the PUC approval of the Line 3 certificate of need was legal under Minnesota law. However, The dissenting opinion by Judge Reyes agreed with the Youth Climate Intervenors across the board, saying quote, "the PUC approved a new pipeline that benefits Canadian oil producers but traverses 340 miles of Minnesota land, which mong other negative consequences will affect hunting, fishing, and other rights of relators Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and White Earth Band of Ojibwe, with no benefit to Minnesota. Such a decision cannot stand. Enbridge needs Minnesota for its new pipeline. But Enbridge has not shown that Minnesota needs the pipeline. I would therefore reverse." (On p. D-20)
YCI plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, noting the strong and well-reasoned dissent from Judge Reyes.
Briefs submitted and oral argument scheduled
Parties to the legal action submit their legal arguments to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and await oral argument on the case, scheduled for March 23, 2021.
YCI student attorney Brent Murcia approved
Former Youth Climate Intervenor Brent Murcia approved to represent the YCI as a Student Attorney at the Court of Appeals.
Stay requests denied by PUC and MN Court of Appeals
Litigants, including the Youth Climate Intervenors, ask for a stay of construction to allow appeals to be heard and the legal process to take its course before construction. The Public Utilities Commission and the Court of Appeals separately deny these requests and allow construction to continue.
Construction of Line 3 pipeline begins
MN PUC approves revised environmental study and permits
On a 3-1 vote (Commissioner Schuerger dissenting) the Minnesota PUC approves the amended environmental impact statement, certificate of need and route permit for the Line 3 proposal.
MN Court of Appeals finds Line 3 EIS inadequate
MN Court of Appeals overturns the environmental impact statement for the Line 3 proposal because it did not evaluate the risk of an oil spill to Lake Superior and sends the EIS back to the Public Utilities Commission.
Department of Commerce joins appeals of Certificate of Need
Several parties, including Red Lake and White Earth Nations and the Youth Climate Intervenors, appeal the decision to give Line 3 a Certificate of Need and the Minnesota Department of Commerce joins the appeal.
MN PUC approves Certificate of Need
Administrative Law Judge recommends against approving Enbridge Line 3 proposal
Administrative Law Judge Ann O'Reilly recommends against approving Enbridge’s proposal, saying only an exact replacement (same size pipe, same route) would be legal.
68,000 comments oppose Line 3
Close of the public comment period on the Certificate of Need; 94% of the written comments opposed Line 3 (68,000 comments opposed Line 3; 3,742 supported it.)
Evidentiary Hearing held on Line 3
Over three weeks, over 60 experts testified on the proposal.
MN Department of Commerce opposes Line 3
Youth Climate Intervenors become an official intervening party
MN Court of Appeals rules EIS required for Line 3
Court of Appeals rules in favor of citizen group Friends of the Headwaters that an environmental impact statement is required for Line 3.
Enbridge applies for Line 3 proposal
Enbridge files its application for the new Line 3 with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.