The Potluck

Rep. Betty McCollum asks Biden to review key Line 3 permit

By: - February 26, 2021 10:56 am

Construction on the Line 3 replacement pipeline was underway near Palisade on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer.

Rep. Betty McCollum is the latest member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to request that President Joe Biden take action on Enbridge’s controversial Line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota.

McCollum, a Democrat from St. Paul, sent a letter to Biden earlier this month requesting his administration review the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to issue a key permit for Line 3 in November. The White Earth and Red Lake nations have sued over the permit, arguing that the Corps didn’t take environmental impacts into consideration. 

“While there is disagreement about the merits of Line 3, and whether investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is sound policy in general, the public needs to have confidence that all federal decisions around any such projects that are approved are made without cutting any legal or regulatory corners,” McCollum wrote in the letter.

A host of Minnesota’s Democratic state senators and representatives have urged Gov. Tim Walz and Biden to block the project, and Rep. Ilhan Omar sent a letter to Biden requesting he shut down Line 3 after he withdrew permits for Keystone XL in January.

Minnesota’s other Democrats in Congress haven’t weighed in recently; in 2018, Rep. Angie Craig said she was in favor of the project, and Republicans have been supportive of the construction jobs and economic boost for towns along the line.

McCollum’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation, along with environmental nonprofits, have also filed lawsuits in state court that challenge permits and approvals from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Public Utilities Commission. The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council sent a letter to Walz on Wednesday requesting he issue an executive order halting construction until the legal challenges are resolved.

The tribes’ earlier motions for courts to stop construction were denied three times.

Construction on Line 3 started in December, following six years of state review, permitting and litigation. Once complete, the pipeline will stretch more than 300 miles across northern Minnesota, carrying nearly 32 million gallons of crude oil each day from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin. 

Enbridge and pipeline supporters say the new line is necessary to replace the existing Line 3 — which was built in the 1960s and requires increasingly intensive repairs and upkeep each year — and to meet demand for oil across the country. The project has also created jobs for roughly 5,000 welders, equipment operators and laborers, half of them Minnesotans.

Opponents say the pipeline will eventually leak and contaminate Minnesota’s forests and waters with crude oil. The cultural significance of these lands and the wild rice beds near the pipeline makes the risk intolerable for Native people, who say the project also violates their treaty rights.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

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