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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Enviros Fight New Cross-Border Oil Pipeline

MINNEAPOLIS (CN)-The Sierra Club and other environmentalists say the Secretary of State violated environmental laws by approving the construction of a new border-crossing crude oil pipeline without first completing a review of the pipeline's environmental impacts.

The Sierra Club and seven other environmental groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, White Earth Nation, Honor The Earth Indigenous Environment Network and Center for Biological Diversity, sued John Kerry and the State Department in federal court.

The plaintiffs say the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it authorized a new pipeline and a bypass project without a NEPA review, and allowed the expansion of an existing oil pipeline to proceed before the completion of an ongoing NEPA review.

According to the complaint, Enbridge Energy LP proposed to construct a new 36-inch diameter pipeline to import heavy tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to its facilities in Superior, Wis. However, Enbridge Energy has already constructed a 17.5-mile segment of the new pipeline that crosses the U.S.-Canada border with 34-inch diameter pipe, claiming it is an existing pipeline known as Line 3 and is subject to a 1991 Presidential permit that allows unlimited crude oil imports.

The environmentalists claim that the Presidential permit authorizes "'an existing 34-inch pipeline' and 'any land, structures, installations or equipment appurtenant thereto in the United States.' Enbridge is in fact constructing an entirely new pipeline that will not follow the same route as Line 3 through parts of Minnesota. Enbridge will be abandoning the existing Line 3 pipeline after it completes the new pipeline," the plaintiffs say.

According to the groups, Enbridge Energy is also seeking to increase the amount of tar sands oil it imports on a different pipeline called Line 67 from 450,000 barrels per day to 800,000.

But Enbridge Energy refuses to wait for the completion of the NEPA process, and instead plans to divert 800,000 bpd from Line 67 onto the new 34-inch diameter pipe and then back onto Line 67 to bypass the NEPA review of the Line 67 expansion project, the environmentalists say.

"State Department's authorization of the new pipeline and the bypass project in the absence of a NEPA review violates NEPA's fundamental requirement to 'look before you leap,'" the groups say in their complaint. "The State Department further violated NEPA by allowing and authorizing Enbridge to proceeds with its Line 67 expansion project prior to the completion of the ongoing NEPA review."

Both Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity say they submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department seeking release of records regarding the new pipeline project. To date, the groups say that the State Department has not provided either of them with a record.

The environmentalists say the construction of the new pipeline and the bypass project will have adverse impacts on the environment, including degradation in water quality and damage to aquatic habitat.

"Operation of the new pipeline and bypass project presents significant risks to the environment and human health due to operational leaks and spills," the groups' complaint states. "Enbridge reports over 30 incidents of leaks and spills on its existing pipeline running through northern Minnesota over the last decade."

The plaintiffs say that in 2012, an Enbridge Energy pipeline failed near Kalamazoo, Mich. and spilled more than 800,000 gallons of tar sands oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.

They seek to prohibit the State Department from authorizing any new construction of the Line 67 Expansion Project, the bypass project, and the new pipeline project until it has complied with the NEPA. The plaintiffs also seek a judgment that the State Department violated the State and National Environmental Police Act, Administrative Procedures Act and Freedom of Information Act.

They are represented by Marc Fink, an attorney with Center for Biological Diversity.

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