ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Enbridge Energy, the owner and operator of the Line 3 pipeline project in northern Minnesota, will pay more than $11 million after investigations identified water quality violations and three aquifer breaches related to the pipeline’s construction, state regulators said Monday.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources announced the results from investigations of water quality violations and aquifer breaches related to the construction project.
Combined with the previous DNR actions, and in partnership with Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the investigations have resulted in more than $11 million in payments, environmental projects, and financial assurances from Enbridge, according to the state agencies.
The Minnesota agency investigation found that Enbridge violated regulations when it discharged construction storm water into wetlands and inadvertently releasing drilling mud into surface water at 12 locations in June and August of 2021. The DNR also finalized agreements with Enbridge to address three aquifer breaches related to Line 3 construction.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also said Monday he has filed a misdemeanor criminal charge against Enbridge in Clearwater County District Court for taking water without a permit at the Clearbrook aquifer.
A statement from Enbridge said that the charge will be dismissed following one year of compliance with state water rules.
“Enbridge, with the support of union and tribal contractors, implemented strong environmental safeguards and protections to meet these regulatory requirements and protect natural resources. This included construction oversight by agency and tribal monitors with the authority to stop construction at any time,” the statement said.
Enbridge said $7.5 million of the $11 million will be used to provide financial assurances and fund multiple environmental and resource enhancement projects.
“At the start of this project, the MPCA issued our most stringent water quality certification to date and permits that were strong, enforceable, and protective — and this enforcement action holds Enbridge accountable for the violations that occurred during construction,” said MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler.
Environmentalist Winona LaDuke, applauded the action taken by the state and attorney general, but added the agencies failed Minnesota’s natural resources and tribal treaty rights by allowing the project to continue.
“Remember that the aquifer is still hemorrhaging water and the level of contamination is increasing,” the executive director of Honor the Earth said.