Enbridge has received the final approval it needs to commence construction of its Line 3 replacement oil pipeline, which cuts a path through northern Minnesota.
On Monday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approved a construction stormwater permit, the final green light the energy company needed for work to get underway.
It comes after the state's pollution regulator approved a series of permits earlier in November, which sparked the resignation of 12 members of the MPCA's Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJAG) in protest.
The new pipeline will replace Enbridge's existing pipeline in northern Minnesota, which it says is aging. When completed, it will connect the tar fields in Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, via northern Minnesota.
The project proved a controversial one, dividing those who want the economic boost that such a major construction project would bring – backed by many state Republicans – with those who fear the potential environmental risk of a pipeline cutting through areas of natural beauty and watersheds.
Native American tribal members and environmental groups have been fighting against the project in court, saying the pipeline will usurp Indigenous treaty rights and contribute to climate change.
Similar sentiments are echoed in the EJAG members' resignation letter. They claimed that the pipeline will cross over 200 bodies of water "inevitably poisoning rivers, wetlands, and wild rice beds" and emit greenhouse gases that cannot be offset even if every other sector of the state gets to carbon neutral.
In a statement, Enbridge says the project will create 4,200 "family-sustaining, mostly local construction jobs," along with "millions of dollars in local spending and additional tax revenues at a time when northern Minnesota needs it most."
Also backing the approval is the Minnesota and North Dakota branch of the Laborers' International Union of North America, which said
“This is the right decision for Minnesota and it is time for all of us to move forward and replace Line 3,” said Joel Smith, President and Business Manager.
"Thousands of our friends and neighbors across Minnesota look forward to using their construction skills to protect our environment and communities by replacing an existing deteriorating pipeline.”