Sandpiper Pipeline

Enbridge, a Canadian company, is proposing to build a pipeline through the Lakes Country to carry oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. This pipeline poses significant envronmental risks to our natural resources. Any leaks or spills in this envronmentally sensitive area could be devastating and cause damage to the ground water and our lakes and rivers for long periods to come.

Please take a look at the information on the Hubbard County COLA web site:

Hubbard COLA

and the Friends of the Headwaters web site:

FOH web site

and also the Enbridge web site:

Enbridge web site


Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) today challenged the state’s preliminary work on the scope of the environmental review for the proposed Sandpiper and Line 3 pipelines. According to FOH, the Department of Commerce, charged with executing the EIS, has already shown strong indications that it is envisioning a much more limited EIS and is taking actions that, unless corrected, will violate Minnesota’s environmental review law.

FOH is asking the Public Utilities Commission to take steps to correct and ensure that a proper EIS is conducted. In its request, FOH is asking the Commission to renegotiate an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in order to assure that the state’s environmental agencies are major contributors to the preparation of the EIS. The Department of Commerce agreement currently submitted does not give those agencies the leadership role that reflects their strong environmental experience and resources. In addition, their involvement is contingent on vague and unspecified staffing decisions and budget limitations.

"FOH firmly believes this EIS cannot and will not be conducted properly and in accord with environmental law without the full support, cooperation and expert staff of the DNR and MPCA," said Richard Smith, President of FOH. FOH is also recommending the creation of an independent, advisory panel of experts to provide specific technical and scientific advice on this EIS project.

In 2014, the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates pipelines in Minnesota, refused to order an EIS for the proposed Sandpiper pipeline. FOH challenged the decision at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which agreed with FOH and ordered the Commission to complete an EIS. After losing a bid for review by the Minnesota Supreme Court, the Commission ordered a full EIS for the proposed project in January 2016. However, soon after the order was issued, the Department of Commerce filed a request with the Commission, asking whether it was required to evaluate alternative locations for the pipeline.

"Neither the Public Utilities Commission nor the Department of Commerce can legally take alternatives off the table before it has even started the legally required scoping process that is used to determine what issues and alternatives will be included in the EIS," said Kathryn Hoffman, Legal Director at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, who is representing FOH. "The alternative locations for this pipeline, proposed by citizen groups and the MPCA early on, have driven this entire process, and must be considered for this EIS to be credible."

If these pipelines were constructed, the Sandpiper Pipeline would carry 375,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken region of North Dakota across northern Minnesota. The pipeline would cross 300 miles of Minnesota, much of it pristine lakes, rivers, streams and wild rice wetlands that would prove difficult if not impossible to clean up in the event of a catastrophic spill. Line 3, proposed for the same corridor would carry 760,000 barrels per day of oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. The National Academy of Sciences recently reported that this type of oil, called diluted bitumen, carries specific, heightened risk because it is extremely difficult to recover and clean up in the event of a spill. These pipelines would carry 300,000 more barrels of oil per day through Minnesota than the Keystone XL would have transported had it not been vetoed on environmental grounds.

FOH Summary Motion 3-9-2016


On September 14, the MN Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Friends of the Headwaters, stating that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was necessary under MEPA law. The stalwart Carlton County Land Stewards filed an amicus brief on behalf of Friends of the Headwaters, and MCEA represented them in the court.

The Sandpiper pipeline would route oil and tar sands through the Mississippi Headwaters and MN lake country. There are other routes that should be considered since with any type of spill an environmental nightmare could be created so requiring an EIS makes sense.

Yesterday Enbridge, doing its MN business as the North Dakota Pipeline Company LLC, filed a Petition for Further Review with the MN Supreme Court. (Please see link below). The Supreme Court will now decide whether to hear this case.

Petition for Further Review

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) has also filed a Petition for Further Review with the Supreme Court. See link below.

MPUC Petition

The following information was added 11/9/2014:

(FYI - ACCL voted to contribute $500 to Friends of the Headwaters to support their work requesting an alternate route for the pipeline)

Minnesota PCA Staff Briefing Papers from 10/31/2014:

MPCA Briefing

Minnesota PUC eDockets information 10/31/2014 (a summary of information submitted to MN PUC this week)

MNPUC EDockets

Minnesota PUC eDockets information 11/7/2014 (a summary of information submitted to MN PUC this week)

MNPUC EDockets11-7-2014

Minnesota PUC eDockets information 11/14/2014 (a summary of information submitted to MN PUC this week)

MNPUC EDockets11-14-2014

Minnesota PUC eDockets information 11/21/2014 (a summary of information submitted to MN PUC this week)

MNPUC EDockets11-21-2014

Letter from Pine River Watershed Alliance requesting funds (this shows the alternate routes and has a fact sheet regarding the pipeline)

Fundraising letter

Blog from Friends of Headwaters, Janet Hill:

Sandpiper Blog

Executive Summary from a 3rd party report of the Keystone Pipeline by the firm Exponent. Many of the issues and concerns are similar to Sandpiper.

Exec Summary Keystone

December 12, 2014 - Press release



St. Paul, MN – Today, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) and Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) jointly file action in Ramsey County Court asking for environmental review of a proposed Enbridge pipeline across Northern Minnesota. Together, MCEA and FOH ask the court to order a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Sandpiper pipeline, which is under consideration before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

The Sandpiper Pipeline would stretch 300 miles across northern Minnesota from the North Dakota border to Superior, Wisconsin. Construction requires bulldozing a wide swath of land through forests, wetlands, and streams. After construction, the completed pipeline poses an ongoing risk of accidents and spills that could contaminate lakes, streams, wetlands, aquifers and soil. Cleanup at these sites can be very challenging. “We have felt from the beginning that Minnesota law requires an EIS for a project of this magnitude,” stated Richard Smith, President of the FOH. “An EIS ensures that all Minnesotans can participate in this important discussion about where and whether a pipeline should be built, and what steps may be taken to make it less risky for Minnesota’s environment,” Smith remarked.

“The lack of effective environmental review for oil pipelines has been troubling to MCEA for years. We need clarification of this statute, not only for Sandpiper, but for others to follow,” said MCEA Staff Attorney, Kathryn Hoffman. “As a state, we need to do a better job evaluating the risks of pipelines.”

The route of the Sandpiper pipeline, as proposed by Enbridge, would flow near Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River, through some of Minnesota’s cleanest lakes and pristine areas of wild rice production, near sensitive aquifers and through fragile wetlands.

Just this week, Enbridge settled a lawsuit with residents and property owners stemming from a 2010 oil spill in Michigan that dumped more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. “We don’t want a repeat of the Kalamazoo oil spill in one of the most beautiful and fragile areas of Minnesota,” said Hoffman.

Friends of the Headwaters, a grassroots, Hubbard County-based organization advocating a different route for the Sandpiper pipeline, is not against pipelines in general. Rather, it seeks for the placement of such pipelines to be in areas of less environmental sensitivity than those proposed by Enbridge. “When you consider the potential impacts, this cannot be the route Minnesotans would choose for an oil pipeline,” Smith said.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is a nonprofit organizing using law, science, and research to protect Minnesota’s natural resources, wildlife and the health of its people. Since 1974, MCEA has advocated for sound environmental policies that provide positive, long-term solutions to the most critical environmental issues facing Minnesota.

For more information, contact:

Richard Smith, Friends of the Headwaters (218) 699-3737

Kathryn Hoffman, Staff Attorney

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy 651-287-4863

Melodee Monicken for Friends of the Headwaters


11/13/2014 - News article regarding Enbridge pipelines

Lawsuit Targets Secretive Plan to Ramp up Tar Sands Oil Shipments in Alberta Clipper Pipeline

MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – Conservation and tribal groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. State Department’s secretive approval of a plan to allow Canadian oil giant Enbridge to nearly double the amount of tar sands oil in the Alberta Clipper pipeline. The approval this summer happened without public notice and without a legally required review that’s meant to protect air, water, wildlife, and public health, in spite of a previous State Department decision that any expansion of Alberta Clipper would require a federal permit.

The pipeline transports tar sands oil from Alberta through Minnesota, with a terminus in Superior, Wisconsin. From the Canadian border, the pipeline runs 327 miles through North Dakota and Minnesota to Wisconsin, passing through three Native American reservations, as well as the Northern Divide, the Mississippi river, the Chippewa National Forest, and Leech Lake.

The scheme to nearly double Alberta Clipper’s capacity would put the pipeline on par with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and significantly increase the amount of toxic, highly polluting tar sands crude being moved into the U.S. without any public oversight or accountability. It also represents a violation of U.S. environmental laws designed to protect the public from pollution of our air and water.

"This lawsuit challenges the State Department's illegal approval of Enbridge's tar sands expansion plans,” Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes told reporters on a press call this afternoon. “Rather than stick to its ongoing review process that the National Environmental Policy Act requires, the State Department green-lighted the expansion before the process is complete."

Today’s suit was filed in federal court in Minneapolis by a diverse coalition of groups including the White Earth Nation, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Honor the Earth, the National Wildlife Federation, the Minnesota Conservation Federation, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and MN350, being represented by the Vermont Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. The suit aims to force Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department to reverse its approval and ensure that a full environmental review takes place before any expansion of Alberta Clipper occurs.

"To establish the U.S. as a real international leader in tackling the climate crisis, the State Department must stop turning a blind eye to Big Oil schemes to bypass U.S. laws and nearly double the amount of corrosive, carbon-intensive tar sands crude it brings into our country," said Sierra Club Deputy National Program Director Michael Bosse. "Enbridge has been allowed to play by their own rules for too long at the expense of our water, air, and climate, and the Sierra Club is taking legal action to stop this abuse."

"The only thing worse than dirty oil is dirty oil backed by dirty tricks. This is the fossil fuel equivalent of money laundering,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for letting Enbridge illegally pump more dirty tar sands oil into the United States.”

“Honor the Earth represents Anishinaabeg people and the earth. We believe that nations should abide by their agreements, treaties, and laws. The Anishinaabeg continue to harvest and live the life the Creator gave us, within the north country, and within the treaty areas, protected and recognized under federal law, including the 1837, 1854, 1855 and 1867 treaties,” said Winona LaDuke, Program Director for Honor the Earth and a member of the White Earth Nation. “We know that new oil pipelines will not bode well for the fish, the wild rice, and the medicines of this Akiing, this land. We also know that the US, through the State Department, should uphold its own laws and regulations, and not issue permits under the pressure of oil interests, over the interests of our country, people, and land. Federal law requires environmental impact assessments, and the US must uphold its own laws. New pipelines by the Enbridge Company and this illegal switching of lines do not serve our state or our country. We ask the US State Department to uphold the law.”