Steve Karnowski
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has rejected another attempt by opponents to shut down construction work on Enbridge Energy's replacement for its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

In an order filed Sunday, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said tribal and environmental groups that filed for an injunction in late December to suspend construction failed to prove any permanent harm would result from allowing the work to proceed or that they're likely to win on their broader legal arguments.

The Red Lake and White Earth tribes of Minnesota, and the environmental groups Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club, argued in their lawsuit that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to properly address several environmental issues, including the risks of oil spills, when it approved a water quality permit for the project.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals last week rejected a separate shutdown request from the tribes, which said continued construction would destroy land that is protected by treaty agreements and would violate cultural and religious rights.

Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. It was built in the 1960s. After years of regulatory reviews and other court challenges, Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge began construction on the the 337-mile replacement in Minnesota in early December. The other U.S. and Canadian sections are already finished.

Opponents say the tar sands oil Line 3 would carry would aggravate climate change and endanger pristine waters where Native people harvest wild rice. Several protesters have been arrested at construction sites in recent weeks. 

Kollar-Kotelly wrote that it was a close call between the "balance of harms and public interest considerations." But she found that the Corps presented "persuasive evidence" that continuing to rely on the old pipeline also carries risks. And she said delaying construction could result in financial losses for Enbridge and communities that are benefitting from the construction work.

Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner said the ruling "acknowledges the thorough, inclusive and science-based review" by the Army Corps of Engineers.

But Honor the Earth said the ruling means it's critical for opponents to keep up the fight, and urged them to sign an online petition urging President Joe Biden to take action on his own stop the pipeline immediately.

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