Enbridge's Line 3 victorious in challenge to Army Corps permits

Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said in a statement the company is "pleased with this decision that acknowledges the thorough, inclusive and science-based review of the Line 3 replacement project."

Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline under construction near the intersection of Hohensee and West Moorhead roads in Carlton County in January.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Approvals for Minnesota segments of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline replacement have been upheld after a federal judge said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t need to consider how the broader project would impact climate change.

The Friday decision by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly marks a victory for the Canadian company, which has fought off various legal challenges for years as it moved forward with construction and put the line into operation last year.

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The Army Corps was right to limit its environmental review of the project only to the impacts of construction in Minnesota, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said, and not downstream concerns like the greenhouse gas emissions from burning the crude oil carried in the pipeline itself. The agency also adequately considered other impacts, including environmental justice concerns, the judge said.

“The Court is satisfied that the scope identified by the Corps was appropriate in light of the activities authorized by its permit,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly said, granting summary judgment to the government and Enbridge.

Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said in a statement the company is "pleased with this decision that acknowledges the thorough, inclusive and science-based review of the Line 3 replacement project" and that it included robust public participation and consultation with tribes.


Competing summary judgment motions filed by plaintiffs the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Sierra Club and others were rejected.

"We are deeply disappointed that the federal court did not recognize that the U.S. Army Corps is required to assess the climate-change impacts of the millions of barrels of oil flowing through Line 3 that will dramatically increase greenhouse gasses," said Earthjustice attorney Moneen Nasmith, who represented the plaintiffs.

A spokesperson for the Army Corps declined to comment.

The effort to replace the corroding pipeline, which first entered service in 1968, has been met with opposition by environmental and indigenous groups . They claim the project connecting Alberta tar sands to Midwest refineries is a new pipeline misleadingly labeled as a replacement, as roughly half of the 338-mile, 36-inch pipeline’s path in Minnesota would run along a new construction corridor. The project also presents serious health and environmental concerns, they said.

The $8.2 billion project doubles the capacity of the 1,097-mile-long pipeline, and Enbridge claims the modifications have improved safety and environmental protections.

The case is Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians et al. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, case No. 1:20-cv-03817.

The plaintiffs are represented by Howard Learner and Scott Strand of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and by Moneen Nasmith, Alexis Andiman, Kara Goad, Mekela Panditharatne and Seth Johnson of Earthjustice.

The Army Corps is represented by Heather Gange, Mark Walters and Amanda Stoner of the U.S. Department of Justice.


Enbridge is represented by Deidre Duncan, George Sibley and Karma Brown of Hunton Andrews Kurth.

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