Complaint Says Pipeline Could Harm Headwaters of Mississippi River

Friends of the Headwaters, a Minnesota environmental organization, alleged in a District of Columbia District Court complaint on Thursday that the United States Army Corps of Engineers should not have granted a permit to Enbridge Energy to construct a 338-mile crude oil pipeline, referred to as the Line 3 oil pipeline, across northern Minnesota.  

The plaintiff argued that the permit, which was issued on November 23, breaches the Clean Water Act (CWA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The complaint said that the environmental assessment done by the defendants found that there was not a significant impact from the project, but the plaintiff disagreed. 

Friends of the Headwaters consists of members who enjoy the headwater area of the Mississippi river and use it for recreation, education, and drinking water. It claimed that the pipeline would have “significant adverse environmental impacts on rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands in the Headwaters of the Mississippi River region and along its route,” as well as on the watershed for Lake Superior. 

“The trenching, tunneling, and clear-cutting required to construct the Line 3 oil pipeline, and the presence of the oil pipeline, once built, will irreparably alter the natural environment of rivers, streams, wetlands, and wildlife habitats that Friends of the Headwaters members use and enjoy for recreational activities,” the complaint explained. 

The complaint also argued that there could be a risk of contamination and oil spills after the pipeline is built, citing that Enbridge Energy has been involved in an oil spill that harmed the environment in the past. The complaint reported that the company caused a spill of over 1 million gallons of oil in Michigan in 2010 causing a billion-dollar cleanup effort that lasted multiple years. 

According to the plaintiff, the Army Corps of Engineers should have considered “potential lifecycle climate impacts,” less environmentally harmful alternatives, and the risks of an event similar to the 2010 oil spill. 

Friends of the Headwaters, represented by the Environmental Law and Policy Center,  asked the court to vacate the permit, remand the case to the defendant and order it to complete an Environmental Impact Statement before looking at other permit options, and enjoin Enbridge Energy from further construction on the Line 3 oil pipeline.