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Biden administration defends pipeline permits in court case

by The Associated Press | June 26, 2021 at 1:51 a.m.
Law enforcement agents form a line in front of a wall of protesters who sit just in front of a locked gate at an Enbridge pump station, Monday, June 7, 2021, in Hubbard County, Minn. Indigenous protesters and allies occupied the active site, some physically chaining themselves to equipment, forcing workers to leave, in protest of the construction of Enbridge Line 3. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Biden administration signaled in a court filing this week that it does not plan to cancel federal permits for Enbridge Inc.'s Line 3 oil pipeline project, despite pleas by American Indians and environmental groups for the president to intervene.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used the filing to defend its decision in November to grant Enbridge a water permit for the project, the last major approval the Calgary, Alberta-based company needed.

Wednesday's filing by the Corps and its attorneys at the Department of Justice marks the first time President Joe Biden's administration has taken a public position on Enbridge's plan to replace its aging Line 3, which carries oil from western Canada to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wis., the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

Environmental organizations expressed displeasure Thursday.

"Allowing Line 3 to move forward is, at best, inconsistent with the bold promises on climate and environmental justice President Biden campaigned and was elected on," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.

But Enbridge officials said in a statement that the Corps' filing "is an expected next step in the court appeal process," and that it laid out the federal agency's "very thorough review" of Line 3′s federal permits.

Two Ojibwe bands and three environmental groups sued the Corps in federal court late last year. They claimed the Corps did not properly evaluate the pipeline's impact on climate change, and that the agency should have conducted its own, full environmental impact study on the pipeline instead of relying on the state's.

Their lawsuit also alleges that the Corps failed to fully consider treaty rights. The pipeline crosses lands where several tribes claim treaty rights to hunt, gather and fish.

The Corps asked for the case to be dismissed, noting the agency met all requirements under federal environmental law. The permit allows Enbridge to drill beneath certain rivers during construction and discharge dredged material.

The Minnesota segment of the pipeline is more than 60% complete. The Wisconsin and Canadian sections are already carrying oil. Protests along the route in Minnesota have ramped up significantly over the past few weeks.

Since Biden took office in January, opponents of Line 3 have repeatedly called for him to stop the project. The most practical legal way for him to do that would be by revoking Line 3′s Army Corps permit, or by ordering that the permit to be redone.

"Today's decision is the Biden administration on autopilot, defending a Trump water permit for a massive tar sands pipeline that is actually indefensible," said Andy Pearson, an organizer with MN350, a climate change group.

Activists lock arms as they occupy an Enbridge Line 3 pump station near Park Rapids, Minn., on Monday, June 7, 2021, as State Troopers, in background, direct traffic on Highway 71. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)
Activists lock arms as they occupy an Enbridge Line 3 pump station near Park Rapids, Minn., on Monday, June 7, 2021, as State Troopers, in background, direct traffic on Highway 71. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)
A makeshift "black snake" resembling a pipeline is carried as demonstrators march along Highway 9, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
A makeshift "black snake" resembling a pipeline is carried as demonstrators march along Highway 9, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Jesse Barrientez, aka Red Feather, center, plays the drums and sings tribal songs with other Indigenous people during a march, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Jesse Barrientez, aka Red Feather, center, plays the drums and sings tribal songs with other Indigenous people during a march, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Everlasting Wind, aka Dawn Goodwin, joins others by raising her fist in the Mississippi River near an Enbridge pipeline construction site, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn., to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. Goodwin is a co-founder of RISE Coalition. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Everlasting Wind, aka Dawn Goodwin, joins others by raising her fist in the Mississippi River near an Enbridge pipeline construction site, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn., to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. Goodwin is a co-founder of RISE Coalition. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" march through swamp land to the boardwalk leading to an Enbridge pipeline construction site, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" march through swamp land to the boardwalk leading to an Enbridge pipeline construction site, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Roy Broncheau, aka Walks Through Hail, plays the drum and sings during a march, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Roy Broncheau, aka Walks Through Hail, plays the drum and sings during a march, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Faith leaders gather for an interfaith prayer gathering before a day of protest action against the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline at LaSalle Lake State Recreation Area on Monday, June 7, 2021. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)
Faith leaders gather for an interfaith prayer gathering before a day of protest action against the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline at LaSalle Lake State Recreation Area on Monday, June 7, 2021. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)
Activist Jane Fonda joins hundreds of protesters chanting "Stop Line 3!" and "Water is life!" gathered at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in in Solway, Minn., on Monday, June 7, 2021 to resist a Canadian-based company's plan to replace an aging pipeline that carries crude oil from Alberta to Wisconsin. (AP Photo by David Kolpack)
Activist Jane Fonda joins hundreds of protesters chanting "Stop Line 3!" and "Water is life!" gathered at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in in Solway, Minn., on Monday, June 7, 2021 to resist a Canadian-based company's plan to replace an aging pipeline that carries crude oil from Alberta to Wisconsin. (AP Photo by David Kolpack)

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