American Indian and environmental groups filed a suit Thursday in federal district court in San Francisco against the Enbridge Energy Co. pipeline being built from the Canadian border to Superior.
The suit comes one day after a ceremonial groundbreaking for the massive pipeline project that will move oil from the tar sands fields of northern Alberta across northern Minnesota to refineries in Wisconsin and Illinois.
The suit names the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as defendants.
The suit's 37-page filing claims the federal government did not look at the cumulative impacts of pollution, especially carbon dioxide that's blamed for climate change, when approving environmental permits for the Alberta Clipper pipeline.
The Indigenous Environmental Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club filed the suit represented by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice.
The groups say the Obama administration has punted a chance to start reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approving the pipeline. They say oil derived from tar sands is the most polluting crude oil made, requiring the most energy to refine, and, that over its lifecycle, emits more global-warming pollution than any other type of oil.
The groups also claim that tar sands development in Alberta is "creating an environmental catastrophe, with toxic tailings ponds so large they can be seen from space, and plans to strip away forests and peat lands of an area the size of Florida."
The suit asks the court to withdraw federal permits, issue an injunction against pipeline construction and send the government back to study environmental effects.
Several Canadian First Nations groups oppose tar sands mining and some members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe have challenged the pipeline crossing reservation land, although the band council approved the project and accepted $10 million from Enbridge.
The company says it has obtained more than 60 federal, state and tribal permits for the pipeline and that the federal Environmental Impact Statement totals more than 3,700 printed pages.
A State Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Al Monaco, the company's executive vice president for major projects, said Wednesday that Enbridge has passed through "unprecedented regulatory scrutiny" with flying colors.
In August, Enbridge received approval from the U.S. State Department for the pipeline, the last major hurdle that allowed construction to begin. The $1.2 billion U.S. segment of the pipeline is part of an $8 billion, 1,000-mile system expansion that will bring oil from Alberta into the U.S., across Minnesota and into Wisconsin. From Superior, the oil could be refined at the Murphy Oil facility or piped another 450 miles to Illinois.
The pipeline will carry about 450,000 barrels of oil, or 19 million gallons, into the U.S. every day; that's in addition to the 67.2 million gallons the company already moves through existing pipelines along the same route.
It's Minnesota's largest active construction project, with more than 3,000 workers expected to be on the job. The company expects oil to be flowing down the line by late 2010.
Enbridge, based in Canada with a U.S. subsidiary based in Houston, is the largest transporter of Canadian oil into the U.S. Even before the new pipeline, Canada already is the largest supplier of oil to the U.S., topping Venezuela, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
Copyright (C) 2009, Duluth News Tribune, Minn.