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Walz continuing Line 3 appeal

The Minnesota Department of Commerce will continue to appeal Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline, Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday morning.

Walz, a Democrat, said he is directing the Department of Commerce to petition the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider the certificate of need it granted to the $2.6 million project, allowing an appeal filed in the final days of Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration to continue.

The decision came on the deadline for the administration to continue the appeal, delaying the pipeline construction. The Minnesota Court of Appeals last week said the appeals filed by Dayton’s administration were premature, and needed to be re-filed for the appeals to proceed.

Until Tuesday morning, Walz had not publicly declared whether or not he would continue the appeal, only telling the press he was meeting with all sides of the issue before he would make a decision.

“When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science,” Walz said in a news release. “The Dayton Administration’s appeal of the PUC's decision is now a part of this process. By continuing that process, our Administration will raise the Department of Commerce’s concerns to the court in hopes of gaining further clarity for all involved.”

The Department of Commerce’s petition filed Tuesday, written by Attorney General Keith Ellison, echoed the Dayton administration’s appeal filed in December.

“Because Enbridge has failed to introduce a demand forecast, which the (certificate of need) statute requires the Commission to evaluate, Enbridge has failed to meet its burden of production,” Ellison wrote in the petition.

Groups supporting and opposing the construction had flocked to the governor's office in the weeks since Walz announced he would review an appeal to the Public Utilities Commission's decision to approve the repair project on the 340 miles of pipeline that carries oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wis.

The projects' supporters, including Republicans in the Minnesota Capitol and labor leaders, were quick to criticize the decision Tuesday morning.

"Gov. Walz campaigned on a vision of 'One Minnesota,' but he is throwing up unnecessary roadblocks that once again delay jobs for Minnesota laborers and property tax revenue for communities across northern Minnesota," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a news release. "The Governor is choosing today to stand on the side of extreme environmentalists who occupy his office, shut down meetings, and commit felonies because they refuse to accept that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil."

In a statement Tuesday morning, Enbridge said Walz’s decision was “unfortunate.”

“Enbridge believes the Commission will deny petitions for reconsideration as they have in the past,” Enbridge said. “Our focus is on actively working with the Walz administration and agencies to develop a clear sense of the schedule for the permits necessary to begin construction of the Line 3 Replacement project.”

Opponents of the project, including Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin, celebrated Walz’s decision.

“This dirty tar sands pipeline would threaten our clean water, communities, and climate, all for the sake of more oil our state does not need,” Levin said in a statement. “We will continue to urge the administration to do everything in their power to stop Line 3, and look forward to working with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan to realize a truly clean, just energy future for all Minnesotans.”

Additional petitions for reconsideration were refiled Tuesday by several environmental groups — including Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club and Youth Climate Intervenors — and several Native American bands — Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa and White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

In June, the five-member PUC unanimously approved a certificate of need for the 340-mile-long pipeline, which is set to replace the current 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.

But the PUC put conditions on its approval in June, and requested Enbridge make additional compliance filings on the parental guarantee for environmental damages, landowner choice program, decommissioning trust fund, neutral footprint program, and general liability and environmental impairment liability insurance.

Line 3 supporters say the project would safely move oil across the state and create thousands of jobs the while opponents say dependence on oil contributes to climate change and that the pipeline is susceptible to spills.

Forum News Service reporter Dana Ferguson contributed to this report.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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