MINNEAPOLIS — The Biden administration signaled in a court filing this week that it does not plan to cancel federal permits for Enbridge’s Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline project, despite pleas by Native Americans and environmental groups for the president to intervene.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used the filing to defend its decision in November to grant Enbridge a water permit for the project, the last major approval the Calgary, Alberta-based company needed.

Wednesday’s filing by the Corps and its attorneys at the Department of Justice marks the first time President Joe Biden’s administration has taken a public position on Enbridge’s plan to replace its aging Line 3, which carries oil from western Canada to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre Tuesday, June 1, 2021, at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Environmental organizations expressed displeasure Thursday.

“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,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.

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But Enbridge said in a statement that the Corps’ filing “is an expected next step in the court appeal process,” and that it laid out the federal agency’s “very thorough review” of Line 3′s federal permits.

Bineshii Hermes-Roach, citizen of the Bad River Ojibwe tribe, traveled to the Mississippi River Enbridge Line 3  crossing at Solway, Minnesota on Monday,  June 7, 2021, to join water protectors. Bad River is involved with the battle against Enbridge's Line 5. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember, Indian Country Today)

Two Ojibwe bands and three environmental groups sued the Corps in federal court late last year. They claimed the Corps did not properly evaluate the pipeline’s impact on climate change, and that the agency should have conducted its own, full environmental impact study on the pipeline instead of relying on the state’s. Their lawsuit also alleges that the Corps failed to fully consider treaty rights. The pipeline crosses lands where several tribes claim treaty rights to hunt, gather and fish.

The Corps asked for the case to be dismissed, saying the agency met all requirements under federal environmental law. The permit allows Enbridge to drill beneath certain rivers during construction and discharge dredged material.

The Minnesota segment of the pipeline is more than 60 percent complete. The Wisconsin and Canadian sections are already carrying oil. Protests along the route in Minnesota have ramped up significantly over the past few weeks.

Since Biden took office in January, opponents of Line 3 have repeatedly called for him to stop the project. The most practical legal way for him to do that would be by revoking Line 3′s Army Corps permit, or by ordering that the permit to be redone.

“Today’s decision is the Biden administration on autopilot, defending a Trump water permit for a massive tar sands pipeline that is actually indefensible,” said Andy Pearson, an organizer with MN350, a climate change group.

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