Energy & Environment

Biden admin backs Trump-era approval of controversial Line 3 pipeline permit

The Biden administration is backing the Trump administration's approval of a controversial pipeline project in Minnesota in a new legal filing.

In a legal brief filed Wednesday, the Justice Department argued that the Army Corps of Engineers's 2020 approval of a certain permit for Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline followed its legal obligation to consider the project's environmental impacts. 

"The Corps met its ... obligations by preparing Environmental Assessments (EA), which included consideration of the impacts from the Corps' authorizations, including to wetlands, the climate, low-income and minority populations, Tribal rights to hunt, fish, and gather, and all of the issues to which Plaintiffs draw special attention," the department argued. 

It asked the court to reject arguments brought by tribes and environmentalists that the federal government didn't adequately assess the project's environmental impacts and instead affirm the pipeline's approval. 

The project's opponents criticized the decision, saying that support for the pipeline goes against President Biden's promises on environmental justice. 

"Allowing Line 3 to move forward is, at best, inconsistent with the bold promises on climate and environmental justice President Biden campaigned and was elected on," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. 

"The president must listen to frontline communities, defend the right of all people to clean water and a healthy climate, and act immediately to shut down this dirty tar sands pipeline," he added. 

A White House spokesperson declined to comment, but it has said in the past that it will try to keep its judicial branch independent. 

Indigenous groups have raised concerns about Line 3, saying it will negatively impact land and water where tribes hunt, fish and gather wild rice. They have staged protests that ended in numerous arrests. 

The pipeline's backers have argued that it will create jobs and contribute to the nation's energy supply. 

At issue is not the entire pipeline, which imports carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Canada, but a segment being built along a new route that the company is calling a replacement. 

Similarly, the Justice Department earlier this year declined to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, dealing another blow to Indigenous and environmental groups who opposed it. 

However, President Biden did scrap an important permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, ultimately leading to its cancellation. 

-Updated 2:56 p.m.

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