Judge Draws the Wrong Conclusion on Line 3

On Monday, April 23, Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly issued her recommendation to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission as to whether the Line 3 tar sands pipeline should be granted or denied the necessary permits. Despite fundamentally agreeing with pipeline opponents on many key issues in the case -- such as the egregious damage that could be caused by construction or a spill along Enbridge’s preferred route, the spiritual and cultural importance of wild rice, and the anticipated $287 billion in climate change damage that pipeline would cause over just the first 30 years of operation -- she somehow concluded that the solution was to suggest approving the pipeline as an in-trench replacement along the old corridor.

The old corridor crosses the Leech Lake, Red Lake, and Fond du Lac reservations, and all three tribal governments have vehemently opposed any new pipeline construction on their reservation or treaty land.

On Monday night, the Power Shift Network and our partners MN350, Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, held a Line 3 Briefing event to gather our community and discuss the judge’s recommendation. You can view the recording of the briefing here.

Parties to the case and advocacy groups have also released official statements with their reactions over the last few days:

  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe: “The ALJ’s recommendation is an anti-sovereignty, one-sided stance that considers Minnesota’s needs only, but puts undue burden on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to hold the risk of the pipeline and to revoke the permit.” (You can read the full statement here).
  • Youth Climate Intervenors: “Judge O'Reilly has handed the authority to deny Line 3 to the Leech Lake band. The Youth Climate Intervenors denounce suggesting more pipeline cross sovereign native land, and we're disappointed in the judge's failure to recognize that the climate impacts from the pipeline will quantifiably and irrevocably damage Minnesota no matter where it is constructed," said Sarah Harper, one of the Youth Climate Intervenors and a current student at the University of Minnesota. "We hope the Public Utilities Commission will think for itself, respect tribal nations, and protect future generations by denying the Line 3 permits."
  • Honor the Earth: “We commend Judge O’Reilly for recognizing Enbridge should not be allowed to send its tar sands pipeline through a new route in Minnesota, but we stand strong with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the Department of Commerce:there is no permission for this new pipeline or need for the existing pipeline,” said Tara Houska, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth. “Tribal nations have been crystal clear that a new line is not acceptable; there is no economic need for Line 3 and the risk it poses to Minnesota. Let’s move to a green economy and away from a Canadian corporation sending dirty tar sands through our waters and treaty territories -- deny Line 3.” (You can read the joint press statement here).
  • Sierra Club North Star Chapter: “At a time when Minnesota’s oil consumption rates are declining and the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s independent analysis shows that this oil is not needed, there’s simply no good reason to allow Enbridge to build a dangerous new tar sands pipeline through our state, regardless of what route it takes,” said Margaret Levin, State Director for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “We urge the PUC to listen to the voices of thousands of Minnesotans who have marched, submitted public comment, and testified against Line 3 and reject this dangerous pipeline once and for all.” (You can read the joint press statement here).
  • Oil Change International: "The moves in Nebraska and Minnesota clearly indicate that the decision makers were very uncomfortable with approving these projects, having been exposed to the full suite of evidence, from a very engaged and concerned public. In the Minnesota case, the Judge talks about the need to move away from fossil fuels in the context of climate change and the fact that the pipeline will only benefit tar sands producers and not Minnesotans. Yet, despite this clear recognition of the costs of this project, the Judge still decided to put forward an approved route that she perhaps knew Enbridge has little interest in pursuing. A poison approval of sorts." (You can read the full article here).
  • MN350: “MN350 condemns the recommendation by Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly to issue a Certificate of Need for in-trench replacement of the Line 3 pipeline. This recommendation ignores established climate science, dismisses the expert conclusions of the Department of Commerce, and is in direct and disrespectful violation of the wishes of Minnesota tribes. The recommendation is an abdication of the state’s duty to protect.” (You can read the full statement here).

​On Wednesday, Governor Dayton responded to a question asked by a young person at Youth Climate Justice Lobby Day about his position on Line 3 by saying “I don't see any viable way that that could be attempted or should be attempted going through the two tribal lands," Dayton said. "And given their adamant position they're against anything like that, I don't see how that's viable." He also said that he has no reason to doubt the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s expert analysis that the pipeline isn’t needed. Read more here.

You can access the full judge’s report here.

Tags: Pipeline Resistance