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Phillips Presses Climate Envoy Kerry About Permitting for Transnational Pipelines

Kerry did not have answers for Phillips’s Line 3 questions in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week

Today, Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03) sent a letter to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry asking the Biden Administration to clarify its policy regarding cross-border pipelines and to explain how the permitting process can mitigate the risks pipelines pose to tribal sovereignty and our natural environment.

After hearing from concerned Minnesotans about the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline – a 50-year-old crude oil pipeline that stretches between Canada and Wisconsin – Phillips asked Kerry about necessary updates to the permitting process and where the administration stands on future pipeline infrastructure in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week. Kerry was unable to answer Rep. Phillips’s questions and encouraged future dialogue on the subject, dialogue that Phillips’s letter will begin.

“Tackling climate change and protecting our environment takes more than just one person, one corporation, or one country,” said Rep. Phillips. “We need a comprehensive, international response to this crisis to ensure the best future for our children and our children's children. For our part, that means doing our due diligence to ensure that all pipeline projects, including Line 3, are reviewed for environmental risk. I look forward to hearing from Special Envoy Kerry about the administration’s approach to transnational pipelines – especially in light of President Biden’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.”

Kerry was unable to answer Phillips's questions about pipeline permitting in a May 12 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Click here to watch

Earlier this year, Phillips wrote a letter to President Biden asking the administration to review Line 3’s 404 Clean Water permit, to ensure that the highest evidentiary standards were met during the permitting process.

Read Rep. Phillips’s letter to Special Envoy Kerry here and below:

Dear Secretary Kerry:

Thank you for joining the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on May 12th titled, “Driving a Global, Whole-of-Society Response to Climate Action.” Tackling climate change takes more than just one person, one corporation, or one country. We need a comprehensive, international response to this crisis to ensure the best future for our children and our children's children.

As you know, the State Department handles all Presidential permits for cross-border pipelines. In my home state of Minnesota, Enbridge is currently replacing over 337 miles of pipe in its Line 3 crude oil pipeline that runs from Alberta to Wisconsin. Line 3 was originally constructed in the 1960s with service starting in 1968 before the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted in the 1970s. When Enbridge sought to replace Line 3 in 2014, the State Department determined that the replacement project did not need a new Presidential permit. Understandably, there are some valid concerns regarding the lack of environmental review of the pipeline. 

Given our discussion at the hearing and understanding this is a nuanced situation, I respectfully request that you answer the following questions:

  1. How is the Biden administration planning to approach decisions on cross-border pipelines, including whether replacement or upgraded pipeline infrastructure should require a new Presidential permit?
  2. How will the administration ensure that consideration of climate risk and meaningful tribal consultation are included in future pipeline permitting?
  3. How does the administration plan to end our reliance on these fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter and I look forward to your timely response.


Dean Phillips
Member of Congress