MNR fines Enbridge $ 3.3 million for rupturing aquifer during construction of Line 3

In a press release Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it was imposing the fine and would return the case to the Clearwater County Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution because Minnesota law prohibits the taking of ” state waters without first obtaining a permit. of the commissioner. “

“Enbridge’s actions are flagrant violations of state law and public trust,” MNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in the statement. “It should never have happened and we hold the company fully accountable.”

According to MNR, Enbridge deviated from construction plans it submitted to the agency near its Clearbrook terminal which sought to avoid a limestone marsh wetland, which “is a unique type of wetland, with strict regulatory protections, which is based on the upwelling of mineral-rich waters. groundwater to thrive, ”said the DNR.

Instead of digging an 8 to 10 foot deep trench as planned, the company dug an 18 foot deep trench and installed sheet piles to a depth of 28 feet. This pierced the containment layer of the artesian aquifer, MNR said, causing “an uncontrolled flow of groundwater into the trench.” Enbridge then “failed” to notify the agency, MNR said.

“Enbridge began work on the Clearbrook Terminal site in early 2021, but did not follow the construction plans it provided to MNR,” MNR said. “MNR used these plans to determine that the proposed work at the Clearbrook Terminal could proceed without affecting the limestone swamps nearby.”

As of September 5, about 24.2 million gallons of groundwater have been released from the aquifer, MNR said.

The DNR said that excess water in the trench was first observed in January 2021, but it was not until June that it was determined that the company had not followed its plans. . MNR said it approved an Enbridge plan last month to stop groundwater flow.

Of the $ 3.32 million in MNR fines, he ordered that $ 2.75 million be placed in receivership to restore and mitigate any damage to the limestone swamps. In addition, $ 300,000 is for “upfront mitigation funds to pay for loss of groundwater resources,” $ 250,000 is for MNR monitoring of wetlands near the breach and $ 20,000 for an administrative sanction order.

In an emailed statement to the News Tribune, Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said the company had just heard from the DNR and was “reviewing the document.” She did not respond to questions about whether Enbridge executives believed the amount was fair or whether they planned to appeal the fine.

“Enbridge has been working with MNR since June to provide the required 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 waters and environment and are committed to restoring them. We will continue to work closely with the agency on the resolution of this matter.”

Construction of the 340-mile-long pipeline in northern Minnesota is nearing completion. It is scheduled to be put into service by the end of the year.

When complete, the new pipeline will transport 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Enbridge terminal in Superior. The new lines to North Dakota, Canada and Wisconsin have already been completed.

Opponents of Line 3 have long argued that it violates treaty rights and poses a risk to the environment.

“No pipeline should have been built this way”, the Resist Line 3 Media collective tweeted Thursday evening. “We need to # StopLine3. “

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