The Minnesota Department of Commerce, under the direction of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), on Monday released the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for Enbridge's proposed Line 3 pipeline project that was submitted to the PUC.
By order of the PUC, the FEIS was prepared by the Minnesota Commerce Department, with assistance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The State of Minnesota's environmental review process and ultimately the FEIS are intended to inform the PUC's subsequent permitting and approval processes and describe mitigation measures that may be available.
The purpose of the FEIS is to inform the public and decision-makers of the proposed actions, assess potential environmental consequences, identify potential mitigation measures and reasonable and feasible alternatives, and to address the no-action alternative.
The FEIS is available on the Minnesota Commerce Department's Line 3 webpage at www.mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities/line3. Copies are also available for viewing at public libraries listed on the webpage.
The release of the final document follows a public comment period that began when the draft version of the environmental impact statement was issued on May 15. The comment period ended on July 10 and included 22 public meetings in the proposed pipeline project area.
Nearly 2,900 comments, either written or transcribed at the public meetings, were received on the draft document. All comments are included in the final report, along with responses to substantive comments on the draft indicating changes that have been made to the FEIS.
Public comment period on FEIS
Minnesotans will have the opportunity to provide comments to the PUC on the adequacy of the FEIS.
After its agenda meeting on Aug. 22, the PUC is expected to issue a formal notice about the timeline and procedures for the public to submit comments on the adequacy of the FEIS. The notice will be posted on the PUC website.
After this public comment period, an administrative law judge (ALJ) from the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings will prepare a report to help the PUC make its determination about whether the FEIS is adequate.
The PUC will review the FEIS, the public comments and the ALJ report to determine whether the FEIS is adequate based on whether it meets the following criteria:
• Addresses the potentially significant issues and alternatives raised in scoping so that all significant issues for which information can be reasonably obtained have been analyzed;
• Provides responses to the substantive comments received during the draft environmental impact statement review concerning issues raised in scoping; and
• Was prepared in compliance with the procedures of the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act and applicable state rules.
Next steps in process
In addition to the public comment period on the adequacy of the FEIS, there will be a separate series of public hearings and an evidentiary hearing this fall on Enbridge's certificate of need and route permit applications for the proposed project.
These hearings will be presided over by an ALJ from the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. At the public hearings, Minnesotans will be able to submit comments, present evidence and ask questions about the proposed project. A formal notice of these hearings, including dates and locations, will be posted on the PUC website.
After these hearings, the ALJ will submit a report to the PUC with findings of facts, conclusions of law and recommendations about issuing a certificate of need and a route permit for the proposed project.
To issue the certificate of need, the PUC will determine if the project is in the state's best interest. If the PUC grants the certificate of need, it will then determine the most appropriate route for the project.
Based on its current schedule, the PUC is expected to decide on Enbridge's certificate of need and route permit applications in the spring of 2018.
Enbridge is also required to secure other permits from federal and state entities, as well as approvals from various tribal and local entities for activities, related to constructing and operating the project
Background on Enbridge's proposed Line 3 project
Enbridge is proposing to construct a new oil pipeline in Minnesota that would follow the existing Line 3 pipeline from the North Dakota border near Hallock to an Enbridge terminal in Clearbrook. From Clearbrook eastward, the proposed pipeline would follow a new right-of-way, south of the existing Line 3, ending at an existing terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge has proposed that the existing Line 3 would be decommissioned and left in place after the new pipeline is installed and operational.