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Sandpiper pipeline update: October 2015

Published by
World Pipelines,

Attorneys for both Enbridge Energy and Minnesota state regulators have asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to take up review of a ruling that overturned a permit for the Sandpiper crude oil pipeline.

In September, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the Minnesota Public Utilities (PUC) Commission's approval of a certificate of need for the Sandpiper project because the PUC did so without an Environmental Impact Statement.

In court documents dated last Wednesday, Enbridge argued that the Court of Appeals usurped the authority of the PUC and the Environmental Quality Board, as well as incorrectly applied the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.

"The Court of Appeals decision creates uncertainty for this and future projects because the Court improperly substituted its own judgment for that of the regulators, and in doing so, incorrectly interpreted and applied MEPA," Enbridge's petition for review read.

In the PUC's own petition to the Supreme Court, the commission claimed the Court of Appeals cast aside a "longstanding process set forth in Minnesota law and ordered a duplicative and premature second layer of environmental review even before the need for the pipeline is determined."

Minnesota regulators are waiting for a legal decision and more input before giving final approval to the permit.

The Sandpiper pipeline

The Sandpiper is a proposed 600 mile pipeline that would run across North Dakota and northern Minnesota from the Bakken oilfields to an existing Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge originally forecast construction to begin on the US$2.6 billion project to begin in 2016, although prolonged proceedings may push back that timetable a year or more.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is seeking input from the pipeline's developer and its opponents to say by 30 October how they want the commission to proceed.

Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner

Sources: Minneapolis Star TribunePine and Lakes Echo JournalWSAU NewsBrainerd Dispatch

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