Political sniping over divisive oil pipeline project heats up after court ruling

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One of Minnesota's top lawmakers claimed Gov. Mark Dayton and his allies were behind a ruling that likely delays a controversial crude oil pipeline project – but the governor says it's not his call to make.

Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt, in a statement issued Thursday, accused the DFL governor of "blocking progress" on the Enbridge Sandpiper oil pipeline by having state agencies turn up the pressure – leading to a ruling from the Court of Appeals earlier this week that said the project must be subject to an environmental review.

The environmental review process usually takes about a year, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission says.

"If Governor Dayton wants to oppose the Sandpiper Pipeline, he should be open and honest about it," Daudt said in the news release. "His administration pushed for the apparently illegal process at the request of activist groups, according to the Court of Appeals, that has resulted in further delays of the Sandpiper project."

Dayton responded Thursday, saying he supports the need for the pipeline but won't step into the process, letting the Court of Appeals and Public Utilities Commission determine what happens, Forum News Service reports.

Honor the Earth, one of the most vocal environmental groups in opposition to the project, said on Facebook that politicians are "still ignoring" the people who are concerned for the land.

The $2.6 billion pipeline would carry about 225,000 barrels of oil per day, across 610 miles of pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Superior, Wisconsin.

The pipeline project has been divisive.

There have been concerns about potential damage to fragile wetlands it may travel through, with stringent opposition from environmental groups.

Supporters value it as an economic development tool. It’s expected to create some 1,500 construction jobs.

Forum News Service notes Enbridge says that it remains committed to the project; company officials are slated to meet with a state judge Friday to discuss the next steps.

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