For several years, community members have worked together to try to stop oil pipelines from cutting through Native lands in Minnesota that are used for clean-water fishing and wild ricing.

Because of historical environmental issues from pipeline accidents — and the reaction of law enforcement in North Dakota to the Standing Rock resistance — the trust level for safety is low. There is a timetable that takes into account public and state agency input, as well as legislative procedures at the federal and state level. When interested parties inevitably clash, the courts become involved in rendering decisions.

For example, Enbridge applied for permits to the Public Utilities Commission for the Sandpiper Pipeline in 2013, and was granted a Certificate of Need in 2015 without doing an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). After the Tar Sands resistance march in St. Paul, and wild rice advocates asserted 1855 treaty rights, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the decision in September 2015 and required the PUC to get an EIS. Public hearings were held in 2016, and Enbridge withdrew its request.

In the meantime, Enbridge’s plans for a Line 3 pipeline proceeded, with an EIS opened for public comment in 2017. In July 2018, the PUC approved a Certificate of Need.

Next step: Enbridge must apply and obtain 29 federal, state, and local permits, which will take several months to review. State agencies such as Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will review permit requests to determine whether resources and cultural heritage are protected properly. Construction on the pipeline can proceed if all of the permits are granted.

The Youth Climate Intervenors successfully argued that their youth means they are most affected by the decision, and won the right to represent themselves in a case against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.