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Controversial pipeline given green light by Minnesota regulators | US & Canada News

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Minnesota regulators approve final permit for Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline, but the start date is not specified.

Minnesota regulators have approved the final permit for Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement across northern Minnesota, giving the company the green light to begin construction on the $2.6bn project in the United States.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency granted a construction stormwater permit for the project, which was the last hurdle that Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge needed to clear after years of reviews and court battles. The US Army Corps of Engineers and the independent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave their final approvals last week.

The company and its supporters welcomed the decision, but opponents have vowed to keep up their fight.

“Construction can now begin,” Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner said on Monday in a statement that did not specify when that would happen.

A sign listing emergency contacts for the companies on ‘Pipeline Alley’ (Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and Keyera Corp) are seen at an industrial zone dubbed ‘Refinery Row’ in Sherwood Park, near Edmonton, Alberta in 2016 [Chris Helgren/Reuters]

But Enbridge has signalled that the start could be imminent. The company notified landowners along the route via letters earlier in the month that it expected construction to “start on approximately November 30”. The company has previously said it expected the work to take about nine months.

“This is the culmination of six years of evidence and science-based review of the project,” Kellner said. “Line 3 is poised to provide significant economic benefits for counties, small businesses, Native American communities, and union members – bringing 4,200 family-sustaining, mostly local construction jobs, millions of dollars in local spending and additional tax revenues at a time when Northern Minnesota needs it most.”

But two tribes – the Red Lake and White Earth Bands of Chippewa – asked the PUC last week to stay its approval of the project, saying the influx of construction workers would put residents along the route at higher risk of COVID-19.

A consolidated appeal by environmental and tribal groups is also pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Opponents say the project threatens spills in pristine waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice and that the Canadian tar sands oil it plans to carry would aggravate climate change.

Enbridge said replacing the deteriorating pipeline, which was built in the 1960s and runs at only half its original capacity, is the best option for protecting the environment while meeting the region’s energy needs. The company said it has instituted strict coronavirus testing and screening protocols for workers to protect them and surrounding communities.

“Thousands of our friends and neighbours across Minnesota look forward to using their construction skills to protect our environment and communities by replacing an existing deteriorating pipeline,” said Joel Smith, president of the Minnesota and North Dakota council of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Line 3 begins in Alberta, Canada, and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota on its way to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

The replacement segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already complete, leaving only the 542-kilometre (337-mile) stretch in Minnesota. Altogether Enbridge expects to spend $2.9bn on the US portion.

“This project has faced years of scrutiny and unprecedented obstruction from Democrats and their allies,” Republican Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said in a statement. But he added that the process “ultimately” worked.



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Colombia launches ‘elite force’ to target rebels, drug gangs | Crime News

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The new unit consisting of 7,000 personnel will be deployed to border with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.

Colombia on Friday launched a new military unit to target coca crops and cocaine production, illicit mining, and the illegal armed groups who use such activities for financial gain.

Colombia’s decision to launch the unit, known as CONAT in its Spanish initials, came while the country was preparing to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate – possibly starting at the end of March – depending on the government receiving approval from the Constitutional Court.

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and – of course – any transnational form of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque said at a military base in Tolemaida.

Colombia, considered the world’s leading producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Health Organization that the chemical was potentially damaging to health and the environment.

The new unit will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The new unit, consisting of 7,000 personnel, will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo, Defence Minister Diego Molano said.

Colombia has faced constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

During 2019, coca crops covered some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a potential to produce 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. There are no figures available for 2020.

The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca last year, according to the government, and seized 500 tonnes of cocaine.

Drug trafficking has long driven Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

During his address, surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, Duque also said the force would pursue “without qualms” members of the ELN – the last active rebel group in Colombia, as well as drug gangs and ex-FARC rebels who have abandoned the terms of a 2016 peace deal, he said.

“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he said.

Surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, President Ivan Duque also said the force would pursue ‘without qualms’ members of the ELN and ex-FARC rebels [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

When he first announced the creation of the elite force earlier this month, he said many of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” though he did not mention direct military action in the neighbouring country. On Friday, Duque did not mention Venezuela.

But his statement prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pledge to “respond forcefully”.

From Caracas, he said the country’s security forces should “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Colombia and dozens of other countries recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, prompting Venezuela to break off diplomatic ties with its neighbour in 2019.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Venezuela of providing refuge to leftist armed groups, a charge Caracas has denied.



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