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Local environmental advocates join lawsuit against secretary of state

The Indigenous Environmental Network based in Bemidji has joined several other groups Tuesday in filing a suit in San Francisco against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

IEN, along with the Sierra Club, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and National Wildlife Federation, is a plaintiff in a suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs, under the National Environmental Policy Act, seek to have the permits vacated for Enbridge Energy Corp.'s Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion.

Other defendants in the suit are Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Enbridge received a permit Aug. 16 and has begun work to build its Alberta Clipper oil pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, oil fields to Superior, Wis. The permit, signed by Clinton, was the last permit the company needed to build the pipeline that will carry tar-sands oil from Alberta across northern Minnesota to Superior and beyond. Another pipeline would carry refined products back to Canada for use in diluting the thick tar-sands oil. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission previously approved the necessary permits.

A federal Environmental Impact Statement on the project became final July 6, ending a lengthy public comment period. The State Department was the lead agency because the pipeline crosses an international border.

The pipeline would carry about 450,000 barrels of oil, or 19 million gallons, a day. That would be in addition to the 1.6 million barrels a day that the company already moves through an existing pipeline along the same route.

In a 36-page complaint, the plaintiffs suing Clinton ask the court to declare the State Department's issuance of the Presidential Permit for the Alberta Clipper "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."

The suit also seeks a declaration that the final Environmental Impact Statement, Army Corps of Engineers permits and the finding of no significant impact all failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Opponents of the pipeline say that the oil is among the dirtiest in the world and that mining it from tar sands is damaging the environment for native tribes in Canada. It's blamed for leaving scarred landscapes and polluted waters in northern Alberta. Tar sand oil also is high in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and requires more energy to process, opponents say. They also claim the pipeline will harm wetlands in Minnesota and Wisconsin.