Critics of MN Sandpiper Decision Get it Wrong on Jobs, Rail, Process, and Environmental Concerns

Experts, advocates respond to criticism of recent court decision


This week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals dealt a major setback to Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline proposal. In a unanimous ruling, the court acknowledged the need for a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before its Certificate of Need application can move forward.

This ruling merely affirmed what was already required by the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act. Nevertheless, Republican leadership in the state legislature were quick to go on the attack in support of Enbridge’s pipeline project. But criticism of the court’s decision misses the mark, both with regard to the pipeline review process and on the merits of Sandpiper itself.

“Speaker Daudt and Chair Garofalo are wrong about the Sandpiper pipeline," said Andy Pearson, Midwest Tar Sands Coordinator with MN350. "The project is delayed because the Public Utilities Commission cheated instead of following the law, not because of pressure from the Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources. Sandpiper poses severe risks to our state's water, climate, and communities, and Enbridge has repeatedly stated that they do not expect this pipeline to reduce congestion on the rails. Minnesotans want this project to receive the legally-required environmental review, and the court agreed on Monday."

“Complaints about delays for Sandpiper ignore a major economic factor,” said Tom Watson, retired Republican elected official and President of the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association. “In Hubbard, Cass, Crow Wing, and Aitkin counties alone there is a $500 million travel and tourism economy, which provides more than 10 times the number of temporary jobs Enbridge proposes to create in the area. The benefits of Enbridge’s proposed projects are small compared to the consequence of an oil spill or line breech. We are not opposed to pipelines, but we are opposed to routing in an area of pristine waters and quality lakes, and the most significant area of Minnesota for travel and tourism.”

"We made the environment argument, we made the science argument, we made the economic argument, we made the legal argument,” said Richard Smith, president of Friends of the Headwaters. “The PUC Commissioners overlooked the merits of the case. We are grateful the Court heard us.”

“It was unfortunate for everyone involved that it took court action to remind the PUC that all of the environmental laws of Minnesota need to followed, said Steve Schulstrum, organic farmer and spokesperson for Carlton County Land Stewards (CCLS). “This ruling does not kill the Sandpiper or Line 3 projects. It simply means that modern environmental methods will now be used to place them in locations less harmful than running them through the most pristine waters of Northern Minnesota. The Sandpiper is being built in 2015 not 1965. If NDPC wishes to cut a new swath through Northern Minnesota the process should be held to 2015 environmental standards.”

“Our wild rice is sacred, and this is the only place in the world where it is grown,” said Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth. “Neither Enbridge nor the PUC has shown respect for our wild rice or our people, but the court ruling recognized that the process has been violated and for that we are grateful. Our tribal governments and our people are committed to stopping these pipelines altogether.”

“The court’s decision is just common sense and should apply to all major pipelines: government agencies need to look before they leap on dangerous energy projects,” said Jim Murphy, Senior Counsel for National Wildlife Federation. “Sandpiper, like the Alberta Clipper pipeline tar sands expansion project, will put wildlife, waters and the climate at risk. These impacts need to be considered and public concerns heard before any decision to move forward with these risky projects are made.”

Legal experts, as well as environmental and tribal advocates, are available for interviews to discuss this development in more detail. To speak with them, contact Gabby Brown at


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