PUC grants Eminent Domain for Sandpiper, calls for Environmental Review and Cooperation with Tribes, Federal Agencies

First, the PUC order requires a thorough Comparative Environmental Analysis (CEA), which “shall also include a qualitative as well as quantitative analysis of the environmental impacts of the various route alternatives; and consider the environmental impact of the Sandpiper facility alone and the cumulative impact of both the Sandpiper facility in the Line 3 replacement project.”   This is an important shift in regulatory process, as the PUC previously denied the motion by Honor the Earth to combine environmental analysis for Line 3 and Sandpiper.

Second, Monday’s PUC order states that: “in addition to complying with the specific provisions of statute and rule, the Commission encourages the Department of Commerce to confer with the parties, including the parties’ experts, and the affected Indian bands, the Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and counties and other applicable units of government to develop the appropriate scope for the Comparative Environmental Analysis, taking into account the intensity, extent and duration of environmental impact. The Department is encouraged to consider: appropriate hydrologic testing, taking into account the specific characteristics and composition of construction materials and the product to be transported through the pipeline; the impact on wild rice resources; impact of forest fragmentation; stream-specific scour analysis; slope calculation and topsoil removal; possible use of directional drilling to avoid or minimize shoreline or river-edge habitat impact; lands identified for historical, archeological and cultural significance.”

Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, said: “It's apparent from the orders by the PUC they heard and understand there are lots of environmental issues and concerns that were not properly and fully considered by the applicant Enbridge and Department of Commerce.”

While this is a much improved environmental process, for environmentalists and local tribal members, one of the most troubling parts of the PUC order granting the conditional eminent domain is with regard to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act where the PUC says no requirement exists that an applicant complete the section 404 review or other permit process concurrent with the state certificate of need review process.” LaDuke added: “isn't this just another putting the (Pipeline) cart before the (freshwater resource) horse?”

This month, the PUC will hold 3 weeks of public hearings on Enbridge’s application for a proposed Line 3 Replacement pipeline, a new pipeline that would be added to the new Sandpiper corridor, but ship tar sands crude from Alberta.  The meetings are in 11 different towns in Northern Minnesota, August 11-26.

Honor the Earth will be sponsoring educational events during the Line 3 public information meetings along with a music tour and a spiritual horse ride and canoe journey along the proposed Line 3/Sandpiper corridor.  See www.honorearth.org/love_water_not_oil_2015 for details.

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