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Walz weighs future of Line 3 appeal filed by Dayton administration

Governor Tim Walz (Don Davis / Forum News Service)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is weighing whether or not his administration will pull an appeal opposing Enbridge Energy's Line 3 oil pipeline.

The appeal, filed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce in the final days of Gov. Mark Dayton's administration, asks the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reconsider the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's decision to grant the project a certificate of need, arguing the Calgary-based Enbridge did not prove the pipeline was needed.

In a statement to the News Tribune Thursday afternoon, Walz said his administration is looking at whether or not the Department of Commerce would continue to fight the PUC's decision in court.

“We’ve asked our commissioner of commerce and we’ve asked our general counsel to assess what’s happening in the case with the commerce commissioner suit, to try as soon as they can report back to us what are the merits of it, what are the next steps forward with it and what makes sense to make sure we’re following the principals we’ve laid out,” Walz said during an event in Duluth Thursday night. “At this point in time we are three days in and we are asking them to gather that information and as soon as they get it back to us we’ll move forward.”

In June, the five-member PUC unanimously granted the project a certificate of need to the 340-mile-long pipeline, which is set to replace the current 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior.

On Thursday morning, MinnPost reported Steve Kelley, who Walz appointed commissioner of the Department of Commerce, said at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce panel Wednesday that Walz had instructed him to "take another look, with the change of administrations, at the Enbridge litigation."

Walze confirmed that in his statement Thursday.

"This includes working with Commissioner Kelley at the Department of Commerce to review this recent lawsuit as well as other information now available to me," Walz said.

A Department of Commerce spokesperson on Thursday declined to describe what the department's review process would entail.

When the appeal was filed last month, Walz did not take a stance on the appeal, telling the News Tribune at the time that "There is only one Governor at a time and Governor Dayton used his authority to appeal the PUC's determination."

In October, Walz told the Star Tribune that he supported the PUC's June decision.

On Thursday, Enbridge did not directly respond to Walz's statement, offering the News Tribune only general information on the project. Walz's statement came just hours after about a dozen pipeline supporters delivered a letter to the Capitol signed by 2,500 Minnesotans urging Walz to drop the appeal.

"We believe the appeal should be rescinded and the process allowed to move forward through permitting and construction," said Mel Olson, president of United Piping Inc. in Duluth and a member of Minnesotans for Line 3. "That is why so many people and organizations signed the letter delivered today to Governor Walz in support of keeping Line 3 moving forward."

News Tribune reporter Adelle Whitefoot contributed to this report.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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