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In re Application of North Dakota Pipeline Co.

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20171
Nos. A15-0016, (Minn. Ct. App., 09/14/2015)

A Minnesota appellate court held that the state's public utilities commission will need to prepare an EIS under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) before it can make a final decision on whether to grant or deny a certificate of need for a large oil pipeline. A pipeline company filed applications for a certificate of need and a pipeline routing permit for a new 612-mile pipeline that would carry crude oil from Tioga, North Dakota, to terminals in Clearbrook, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin. Approximately 300 miles of the proposed pipeline would cross northern Minnesota carrying between 225,000 and 375,000 barrels of oil per day. All parties agreed that the pipeline is subject to environmental review under MEPA, but the review was set to occur during the routing permit proceedings after the certificate of need had been granted. The court ruled this violates MEPA. Where, as here, routing permit proceedings follow certificate of need proceedings, MEPA requires an EIS to be completed before a final decision is made on the certificate of need. The completion of an EIS at the initial certificate of need stage is critical because once a need is determined, the focus will inevitably turn to where the pipeline should go, as opposed to whether it should be built at all. The court, therefore, reversed and remanded the grant of a certificate of need so that the commission can prepare an EIS.