Opponents of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement have been dealt a blow by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In a one-page opinion issued Tuesday, the court announced it would be declining to take up the challenges made by tribal and environmental groups against the pipeline.
Honor the Earth, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and Friends of the Headwaters had called for further review into the environmental impact statement (EIS) approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The PUC had been ordered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals to fix one element of the EIS, which failed to look sufficiently at the impact of a possible oil spill in the Lake Superior watershed, but the court otherwise upheld the rest of the statement.
Opponents had appealed this decision, saying the environmental review also failed to sufficiently address the oil pipeline's impact on climate change and the potential harm on tribal and cultural resources.
But with the Supreme Court declining the hear the challenge, it paves the wave for the PUC to fix the original flaw in the EIS, removing one of the roadblocks to the pipeline's eventual replacement.
Enbridge will still require more permits before it can fully go ahead with the project, but the Tuesday decision is another significant step to achieving its aim of replacing the aging pipeline, which will carry crude oil from Canada across the north of Minnesota to a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin.
In a statement, Honor the Earth's Winona LaDuke said: "We are profoundly disappointed that the Minnesota Supreme Court felt more interested in siding with the rights of a Canadian corporation to proceed with a high-risk project than protecting the rights of the Minnesota Anishinaabe and indigenous people and the rights of nature."
But the decision has been backed by, among others, the Laborers' International Union of North America, whose president Tim Mackey said: "The Public Utilities Commission can now move forward with the additional spill modeling ordered by the Court, which we are confident will only strengthen the case for replacement.
"Our members are ready to get to work protecting Minnesota's environmental resources and boosting our economy with this needed project."