Federal Judge Refuses to Overturn Approval of Dirty Line 3 Pipeline

The pipeline is harming Anishinaabe resources and worsening climate change


Timna Axel, Earthjustice, (773) 828-0712


Moneen Nasmith, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7384


Alexis Andiman, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7394

A federal judge decided that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not violate federal law in issuing a permit in 2020 that enabled construction and operation of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

“We are deeply disappointed that the federal court did not recognize that the U.S. Army Corps is required to assess the climate-change impacts of the millions of barrels of oil flowing through the Line 3 pipeline that will dramatically increase greenhouse gasses,” said Earthjustice Attorney Moneen Nasmith. “Although the district judge disagreed, the Army Corps’ analysis of Line 3’s environmental impacts is woefully inadequate and unlawful and we will be discussing options for appealing this decision with our clients.”

Earthjustice Attorney Alexis Andiman said: “We are also disheartened that the potential impacts of this pipeline on the treaty-protected hunting, fishing, and gathering rights of the Anishinaabe were ignored. The failure to assess those impacts violates federal law.”

“The Anishinaabe have been harvesting wild rice and maple syrup for thousands of years and the Line 3 pipeline hinders their way of life,” Andiman said. “Unfortunately, the judge did not see the harm to their heritage and cultural resources as a reason to revoke the permit and require a proper analysis of this pipeline’s impacts.”

“Like Minnesota state government regulators, agencies, our courts, and so-called leaders, the federal court has again failed Indian people and Minnesota’s most pristine waterways and landscapes. At a time of growing critical climate impacts due to carbon-loading of the atmosphere, Line 3 demanded a federal environmental impact statement, not a federal refusal to do one,” says Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth. “After capturing the regulatory process, dividing our communities, corrupting the law enforcement process, and brutally abusing water protectors, then piercing major aquifers and covering it up, Enbridge has demonstrated it cannot ever be trusted to operate this unnecessary pipeline with integrity or transparency.”

“This is a deeply disappointing decision that will have devastating impacts for Indigenous rights, Minnesota waterways, and our climate,” said Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin. “By failing to break with the Trump administration and defending this permit in court, the Biden administration has placed itself on the wrong side of history. A powerful, Indigenous-led movement held off operation of Line 3 for more than four years, and it’s the reason Line 3 will be the last tar sands pipeline ever built. Now the work continues to halt operation of Line 3, fight dirty fossil fuel infrastructure, and demand that the Biden administration live up to its commitments on climate justice.”

Red Lake Tribal Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr. also responded to the recent decision of the federal court: “We are very disappointed that the federal court put so little emphasis on the protection of Tribal lands and waters, while making sure that the pipeline company was able to achieve virtually everything that it requested. The erosion of protections for Tribal resources will come back to haunt us all.”

The Army Corps issued the permit for Line 3 in November 2020, under the Trump administration, to Canadian oil giant Enbridge after ignoring the pipeline’s significant environmental risks and threats to tribes and the environment.

Earthjustice sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in December 2020 — on behalf of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Honor the Earth, and the Sierra Club — arguing the federal agency illegally approved a water permit so Enbridge could construct and operate a 330-mile pipeline carrying tar sands oil. Earthjustice argued that the Army Corps, in approving the permit, failed to fulfill its duty to evaluate the pipeline’s risks to tribes and tribal resources, including water and wetlands, and the pipeline’s contributions to climate change.

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