Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project

Final permits and certification

On November 12, 2020, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued its most stringent 401 water quality certification to date to Enbridge Energy for the Line 3 pipeline replacement project. In addition, the MPCA approved the capped air emissions and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System wastewater (NPDES) permit for Line 3. 

Other documents

Contested case hearing on draft 401 water quality certification

On June 3, 2020, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced it had granted a contested case hearing on the agency’s draft 401 water quality certification for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project. The contested case hearing, conducted on August 24, 2020, focused on Enbridge’s water crossing methods to ensure all impacted streams and wetlands are protected. Administrative Law Judge James E. LaFave from the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) provided his final recommendations from the hearing on October 16, 2020. ​The MPCA is reviewing Judge LaFave's recommendations.

The project

Enbridge Energy (Enbridge) is proposing to construct a new oil pipeline in Minnesota to replace its existing Line 3 pipeline. The new pipeline will follow the existing Line 3 pipeline from North Dakota to the Clearbrook Terminal in Clearwater County, Minnesota. From the Clearbrook Terminal eastward, Enbridge proposes that the pipeline be constructed in a new right-of-way, south of the existing Line 3, ending at an existing terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge is proposing that the existing Line 3 pipeline be permanently deactivated and remain in place.

The purpose of the project is to address pipeline integrity and safety concerns related to the existing Line 3 and to restore the throughput of the line to its original operating capacity of 760,000 barrels per day (bpd).

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MPCA’s role

Enbridge will need multiple approvals from state agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, in order to proceed. The MPCA's role is to protect water, land and air, which it does, in part, through the environmental permitting process. The permits the company would need from the MPCA are described below.

When any facility submits an application to MPCA to obtain a permit, technical staff review the application and evaluate whether the facility can meet applicable environmental regulations and standards. If so, the MPCA then develops facility-specific permit conditions. These permit conditions ensure that all standards are met by limiting the type and amount of water discharges or air emissions, specifying how the facility must be operated, and describing monitoring that must be conducted.

Once drafted, most permits require a formal public notice where the draft permits are made available for public review and comment. After public notice, the permits are revised to reflect any changes to address comments from the public. To issue the permit, the MPCA must be satisfied that the permit provides for meeting all applicable rules and regulations and that the applicant will comply with all conditions of the permit.

For the proposed Enbridge Line 3 project, the MPCA’s role involves the following:

Project timeline

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is committed to a fair, efficient, and thorough review of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project applications. On September 27, 2019, the MPCA denied without prejudice Enbridge’s request for 401 certification because additional information was needed to ensure compliance with water quality standards. Enbridge sent a revised 401 certification application on November 15, 2019. The MPCA revised the project schedule after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s decision on February 3, 2020, to approve the project. Public comment was open from March 2 - April 10, 2020.

To accommodate a contested case hearing, the MPCA received approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend its deadline for the 401 certification from August 15 to November 14, 2020. The MPCA is required by the Clean Water Act to make a final decision regarding the 401 certification by November 14, 2020.