By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota Appeals Court on Tuesday denied a request for a stay of construction for the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Enbridge Energy was given the green light to start the $2.6 billion project in late November. A day later, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and White Earth Band of Ojibwe filed a motion for a stay to stop the authorization of the project.

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Opponents of the pipeline say it threatens spillage and irreparable damage to more than 200 bodies of water, where local tribes fish, harvest wild rice and hold treaty rights. An additional 4,000 workers were also expected to arrive in northern Minnesota for the project, which during pandemic times, caused worry about worsening the spread of the virus.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission denied the stay on Dec. 9, and then denied a petition for reconsideration on Dec. 23.

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In the order, the commission says they “acknowledged the Tribes’ concern” but said that even if construction finished, the court would be able to “case operation of the pipeline,” which would “remove the risk of an accidental oil spill . . . the most serious potential impact raised by opponents of the Project.”

“We’re pleased with the decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, but not surprised,” said Enbridge in a statement. “This is an essential maintenance and safety project that enhances environmental protections.”

Earlier on Tuesday, two “water protectors” in Cloquet locked themselves into an Enbridge excavator. Along with 50 other activists, they shut down construction for much of the workday.

(credit: Line 3 Media Collective)

“Our state laws are not working in the public interest and for the public good. We are endangering future generations . . . and that’s got to stop,” said Charles King, one of the people who locked themselves into the equipment.

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Enbridge first announced the pipeline replacement project in 2014. The new Line 3 would be more than 1,000 miles long, beginning in southeastern Alberta and ending in Superior, Wisconsin.