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Environmental impact statement for Line 3 pipeline 'inadequate,' appeals court rules

It's a setback for pipeline company Enbridge.

The proposed route of the Enbridge pipeline.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that the environmental impact statement into the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline across Minnesota is inadequate.

In an opinion released Monday, the court ruled that the EIS is "inadequate because it does not address the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed."

As a result of the ruling, the court has reversed the decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which had found the statement to be acceptable.

A legal challenge had been brought by environmental groups and tribal bands on whose land the replacement pipeline would bisect.

However, the appeals court did reject "most" of the arguments made by the groups, with the Lake Superior watershed but one area where the judges agreed.

The sticking point came in the seven different models presented in the EIS that looks into the potential impact of a crude oil spill.

The court noted that none of the sites looked at for these spill models were in the Lake Superior watershed.

"Throughout the environmental-review process, environmental organizations and members of the public raised concerns about the impact of an oil spill on Lake Superior and its watershed, including the St. Louis River Estuary," the court opinion said.

"In spite of these persistent concerns, neither the [EIS[] nor the responses to comments directly address the failure to analyze potential impacts of an oil spill on Lake Superior and its watershed."

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The Star Tribune reports that having to redo the EIS could take "months," providing another potential delay to the long-planned project.

In a statement, Enbridge said the EIS approved by the PUC was the "most extensive ... study of a pipeline project in state history."

It'll now consult with the PUC and the State of Minnesota about the next step.

Frank Bibeau, the attorney for Honor the Earth, one of the groups that challenges the EIS, said: "Honor the Earth commends the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling today, as [the EIS] blatantly ignored any impacts to four major water bodies in northern Minnesota.

"The Husky refinery fire made them realize that an oil spill release into our waterways was much more real than hypothetical. The ruling will allow adequate time for the PUC and Minnesota Department of Commerce to fix those deficiencies in the FEIS."

Less concerned is House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a long-time supporter of the project, who said it's positive that the court found against most of the arguments made by environmental and tribal groups.

"It's encouraging that the court rejected nearly all of the challenges brought by environmental groups who oppose this pipeline and the thousands of jobs that come with it," he said.

"Replacing aging infrastructure is the right thing to do for Minnesota; it's good our economy, it will grow jobs, and it will enhance environmental protection. This ruling should not change that, and should not stop this important project.

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