There is a “Consent Decree” from the U.S. Government that says Line 3 needs to be replaced. What does this mean?

The issue of what is best for Line 3 is something that has been discussed for years.  After looking into different options, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016, under the Obama administration, reached a settlement agreement with Enbridge that concluded Line 3 must be replaced. A consent decree laid out the terms of the settlement, stating:

“Enbridge shall replace the segment of the Lakehead System Line 3 oil transmission pipeline that spans approximately 292 miles from Neche, North Dakota, to Superior, Wisconsin,”

“Enbridge shall complete replacement of Original US Line 3 and take Original US Line 3 out of service including depressurization of Original US Line 3, as expeditiously as practicable after receiving required regulatory approvals and permits for new Line 3.”

What is a consent decree? USLegal.com defines it as:

A consent decree is governed by federal and state laws, which vary by jurisdiction. It is generally a voluntary agreement worked out between two or more parties to a dispute. It generally has the same effect as a court order and can be enforced by the court if anyone does not comply with the orders.

To comply with the consent decree, Enbridge has worked hard for years with regulators at all levels to move the Line 3 replacement project forward.

The consent decree has been an important factor and part of this process.  In June of 2019, when the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided that further study was needed for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement, Judge Francis Connolly noted the importance of following the consent decree in his dissenting opinion:

“Existing Line 3 has been in operation since the 1960s, has suffered a high amount of corrosion and long-seam cracking, and must be replaced under a consent decree between Enbridge and the Environmental Protection Agency and Coast Guard.”

It is important to know that the federal government’s consent decree requires Line 3 to be replaced. In its unanimous decision to approve the project, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission agreed with the same position already taken years earlier by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice on the necessity of replacing Line 3.

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