The project employed more than 500 Native workers and had brought more than 5,000 construction jobs to the region overall, he said. “We hoped all parties would come to accept the outcome of the thorough, science-based review and multiple approvals of the project. Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review,” he said.
So far, protests have had little effect on construction, which began in December and was 60 percent complete, he said.
Built in the 1960s, the current crude oil pipeline has been beset with corrosion, leaks and spills, forcing Enbridge in 2008 to reduce its capacity by half, to 390,000 barrels a day. In 2015, Enbridge cited corroding pipes and future oil demand to say it would reroute Line 3, a move that would allow it to restore its original capacity.
Opponents have tried a number of legal challenges. A decision is expected this month in one case, filed in Minnesota state court by tribes and environmental groups, which has focused on whether Enbridge carried out an adequate environmental review.
Two other cases challenge the project’s permits, issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, under the Clean Air Act. Opponents argue that the Army Corps failed to fully consider how an oil spill would affect the Lake Superior watershed.
Native lawyers and lobbyists have also been working their Washington connections. Late last month, Ms. Houska, the tribal attorney, pressed top Biden officials on what she saw as policy hypocrisy: Having canceled Keystone XL, how could the administration then allow Line 3 to go forward?
“This is a huge project with huge climate implications,” Ms. Houska said she told Gina McCarthy, the White House domestic climate adviser, and David Hayes, who advises Mr. Biden on land and water use policy. “You can’t cancel Keystone and then build an almost identical tar sands pipeline,” she said.