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Walz administration to petition for reconsideration, let Line 3 pipeline appeal advance

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, center, told reporters on Monday, Feb. 11, that he'd meet with stakeholders before announcing whether he'd drop an appeal blocking the Enbridge Line 3 project. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Commerce will continue to appeal Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline, Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday morning, Feb. 12.

Walz said his administration, through the Department of Commerce, will petition the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider the certificate of need it granted to the project, allowing an appeal filed in the final days of Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration to continue.

The decision came on the deadline for the administration to continue the appeal, delaying the pipeline construction. The Minnesota Court of Appeals last week said the appeals filed by Dayton’s administration were premature, and needed to be refiled for the appeals to proceed.

Walz's announcement spurred excitement among environmental and tribal advocates who'd lobbied against the proposal. Meanwhile, labor and economic development advocates and Republican lawmakers said the move marks a failure in the governor's first test of implementing his "One Minnesota" vision.

Until Tuesday morning, Walz had not publicly declared whether or not he would continue the appeal, only telling the press he was meeting with all sides of the issue before he would make a decision.

“When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science,” Walz said in a news release. “The Dayton administration’s appeal of the PUC's decision is now a part of this process. By continuing that process, our administration will raise the Department of Commerce’s concerns to the court in hopes of gaining further clarity for all involved.”

Enbridge said the move was "unfortunate" but planned to work with the Walz administration and state agencies to set a schedule for obtaining permits for the project.

Groups supporting and opposing the construction had flocked to the governor's office in the weeks since Walz announced he would review an appeal to the Public Utilities Commission's decision to approve the repair project on the 340 miles of pipeline that carries oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wis.

Opponents of the pipeline project celebrated Walz's decision and attributed it in part to their work lobbying at the Capitol.

"Today, Gov. Walz showed that he’s listening ... and that he is committed to using facts and science as the courts deliberate on the need for the Line 3 oil pipeline," Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy CEO Kathryn Hoffman said. "This is critical because the decisions we make today will determine whether we leave a livable climate for our children and grandchildren."

The projects' supporters, including Republicans in the Minnesota Capitol and labor leaders, were quick to criticize the decision Tuesday morning.

“This was Gov. Walz’s first test on what 'One Minnesota' means and on this example, I think very clearly Gov. Walz has failed the test,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said. “It’s really unfortunate that Gov. Walz has decided to side with extreme radical environmentalists and not with Minnesotans.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he hoped to find "win-win" agreements with the new DFL governor, but this one equated to a "lose-lose," especially for Greater Minnesota.

When Dayton’s Department of Commerce filed its appeal in late December, it argued the PUC was wrong in granting the project a certificate of need because “Enbridge did not introduce, and the Commission did not evaluate the accuracy of, a long-range demand forecast for the type of energy that would be supplied by the proposed facility,” the department said in its filing at the time.

In June, the five-member PUC unanimously approved a certificate of need for the 340-mile-long pipeline, which is set to replace the current 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.

But the PUC put conditions on its approval in June, and requested Enbridge make additional compliance filings on the parental guarantee for environmental damages, landowner choice program, decommissioning trust fund, neutral footprint program, and general liability and environmental impairment liability insurance.