On Monday, September 14, the Minnesota Court of Appeals unanimously revoked the Certificate of Need for the Sandpiper pipeline and required a full Environmental Impact Statement to be conducted. The appeal was filed by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy on behalf of Friends of the Headwaters. The Court ruled that the MPUC (Minnesota Public Utilities Commission) had violated state law by granting Enbridge a Certificate of Need for the pipeline without conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act. The Court sent the case back to the PUC, a huge victory for citizen and environmental groups.
The decision postpones indefinitely the permit proceedings for both the Sandpiper and Line 3 pipelines, because they are proposed for the same new corridor. Line 3 is an existing tar sands pipeline from Alberta that Enbridge has proposed to abandon and replace with a new line.
The ruling states: "Because the decision to grant a certificate of need for a large oil pipeline constitutes a major governmental action that has the potential to cause significant environmental effects, we conclude that MEPA requires an environmental impact statement to be completed before a final decision is made to grant or deny a certificate of need. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for respondent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to reconsider whether to issue a certificate of need after an environmental impact statement has been completed."
Winona LaDuke, Executive Director for Honor the Earth, says: “Miigwech to Friends of the Headwaters and MCEA for their good work. For more than 2 years now we have been asking for an EIS on Sandpiper and trying to make sense of the state’s deeply flawed regulatory process. It is good to finally have some intervention and some justice. It shows we have created a powerful movement to protect our land and water. Next we want the PUC to make a plan for tribal consultation during the EIS process. They have failed to consult with any tribal government during any of the Sandpiper or Line 3 pipeline proceedings, despite written opposition from the tribes. The PUC does not have jurisdiction on Anishinaabe lands and this is 2015, not 1899. Native people should be treated with respect, and we need a regulatory system that is legal, transparent, and respectful of the treaties our ancestors signed.”