Minnesota regulators have fined Enbridge $3.32 million for breaching an aquifer near Clearbrook, Minn., when it deviated from its construction plans of the Line 3 oil pipeline, draining more than 24 million gallons of groundwater.
In a news release Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that it is issuing the fine and will refer the matter to the Clearwater County Attorney’s office for criminal prosecution because Minnesota law is “without first obtaining a permit from the state.” Prohibits the taking of water. from the commissioner.”
“Enbridge’s action is a clear violation of state law and public trust,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strowman said in the release. “This should never have happened, and we are holding the company fully accountable.”
According to the DNR, Enbridge deviated from construction plans submitted to the agency near its Clearbrook terminal to avoid a quiet wetland, which is “a unique type of wetland, with stringent statutory protections, which depends on the upliftment of the mineral-rich groundwater to thrive,” the DNR said.
Instead of digging 8 to 10 feet deep as per the plan, the company dug a trench 18 feet deep and piled the sheets up to a depth of 28 feet. This ruptured the limiting layer of the artesian aquifer, causing an “uncontrolled flow of groundwater into the trench,” the DNR said. Enbridge “failed” to notify the agency, the DNR said.
“Enbridge began work on the Clearbrook Terminal site in early 2021, but did not follow through on construction plans provided to the DNR,” the DNR said. “DNR relied on these plans to ensure that the proposed work at Clearbrook Terminal can proceed without affecting the nearby Calcareous Fen wetlands.”
The DNR said that as of September 5, about 24.2 million gallons of groundwater have been released from the aquifer.
The DNR said additional water in the trench was first observed in January 2021, but it was not until June when it was determined that the company had not followed through with its plans. The DNR said it approved a plan from Enbridge last month to stop groundwater runoff.
Of the DNR $3.32 million in fines, it ordered $2.75 million to be kept in escrow to restore and mitigate any damage to the Calcareous Fen wetlands. Additionally, $300,000 is for an “initial mitigation fund to pay for damage to groundwater resources”, $250,000 for monitoring the DNR of wetlands near the breach, and $20,000 for administrative penalty orders.
In an emailed statement to Forum News Service, Enbridge spokeswoman Julie Kellner said the Canadian company had just heard from DNR and was “in the process of reviewing the document.” He did not respond to questions about whether Enbridge leaders thought the amount was reasonable or whether they planned to impose fines.
“Enbridge has been working with the DNR since June to provide necessary site information and approval of a corrective action plan that is currently being implemented,” Kellner said. “We share a strong desire to protect Minnesota’s water and environment and are committed to restoration. We will continue to work closely with the agency on resolving this matter.”
Construction is nearly complete on the 340-mile-long pipeline in northern Minnesota to replace an older pipeline operated by Enbridge. It is expected to be in service by the end of this year.
Once completed, the new pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis. New lines have already been completed in North Dakota, Canada and Wisconsin.
Opponents of Line 3 have long argued that it violates tribal treaty rights and poses a threat to the environment, including further contributing to climate change by continuing reliance on fossil fuels.
“No pipeline should have been built like this,” Racist Line 3 Media Collective tweeted Thursday evening. “We need #StopLine3.”