State Department sued for alleged secret pipeline approval

April 14, 2015

A coalition of eight environmental, conservation and indigenous groups recently announced that they are suing the State Department for allegedly approving two pipeline plans in secret last year.

The lawsuit was originally filed last year by Minnesota's White Earth Nation tribe, along with environmental groups including the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity. This month the groups filed a motion for summary judgment in Minnesota federal court.

In the suit the groups allege that the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry pushed approval for the expansion of Enbridge's Line 67 — also known as the Alberta Clipper — in 2014, foregoing public notice or the legally required review of environmental and public health impacts. They add that the department also approved the construction of a second new pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, without any input from the public. 

According to the summary judgment motion, the State Department cut corners by attempting to build the new pipeline using a permit that had been assigned to another pipeline, known as Line 3.

"In effect, what the State Department has done is allow the Alberta Clipper expansion to go forward in the interim, but they've also allowed this new higher capacity line at the border under the guise of line 3 maintenance," Doug Hayes, staff attorney for the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress. "Clearly it's not just maintenance of a pipeline — it's something different."

These approvals violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), say the groups. The State Department denies the allegations.

Environmental consultants can help government agencies and privately-owned companies move forward with expansions, while ensuring adherence to federal and state regulations.