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Biden DOJ Backs Trump-Era Approval of Line 3 Pipeline Opposed by Environmental Groups

The Biden administration has backed the validity of a Trump-era environmental assessments and subsequent approval of a controversial Minnesota pipeline project that environmental groups have sued to block.

In a 65-page legal brief filed on Wednesday (pdf), the Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2020 approval of Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 oil pipeline met its legal obligation to assess the project’s environmental impacts and considered “all of the issues to which Plaintiffs draw special attention,” such as effects on climate, Tribal hunting and fishing rights, and low-income and minority populations.

Jean E. Williams, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, recommended in the filing that “the Court should reject Plaintiffs’ arguments and enter summary judgment in favor of Federal Defendants,” in this case the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Plaintiffs—including the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, Honor the Earth, and the Sierra Club—had challenged the Corps’ review and approval process as “arbitrary and capricious,” a claim Williams rejected in the filing.

Williams argued that, in addition to the Corps meeting its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it also “considered a reasonable range of alternatives, before incorporating important protections for wetlands, wild rice, and cultural resources” as part of its Line 3 pipeline permit.