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Enbridge to pay millions in fines for Line 3 water quality violations, aquifer breaches

Enbridge to pay millions in fines for Line 3 water quality violations
Enbridge to pay millions in fines for Line 3 water quality violations 00:33

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Enbridge Energy will pay out millions in fines for water quality violations and aquifer breaches in the Line 3 pipeline construction project in northern Minnesota, according to state agencies.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources jointly announced the results of an investigation in partnership with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The agencies say the investigation has resulted in more than $11 million in payments, environmental projects and financial assurances from Enbridge.

"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," MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler said. "We are committed to protecting Minnesota's wetlands and streams and will continue to monitor the company's ongoing work to return the site to its pre-construction condition."

RELATED: Minnesota judge says blocking Line 3 pipeline protest camp was wrong

The MPCA says its investigation found Enbridge violated a series of regulations and requirements, including "discharging construction stormwater into wetlands and inadvertently releasing drilling mud into surface waters" at a dozen locations between early June and early August of 2021.

The DNR also finalized two comprehensive enforcement resolution agreements to address three aquifer breaches during Line 3 construction. One of the agreements addresses an aquifer breach just west of the Fond du Lac Reservation, and includes more than $1 million in payment to the tribe.

"In entering into these comprehensive enforcement actions, the DNR is holding Enbridge fully accountable and ensuring that the DNR has the resources needed to address the aquifer breaches," DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said. "We deeply appreciate the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's partnership in investigating and addressing the aquifer breach affecting their Reservation. We will continue work to ensure that mitigation and restoration efforts effectively address damages to Minnesota's natural resources resulting from these aquifer breaches."

For more specifics on fine and payment amounts, read the full press release from the MPCA and DNR.

Additionally, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Wednesday announced a settlement with Enbridge, which includes more fines and environmental restoration. 

The attorney general filed a criminal charge - one misdemeanor count - against Enbridge in Clearwater County court for "appropriating state waters without a permit through construction." Ellison's office says Enbridge admitted to knowing about a Clearwater County aquifer breach, and delayed notifying the DNR as required.

The office, however, made a diversion agreement with Enbridge that will dismiss the charge after a year in exchange for Enbridge's admission of the facts, plus a $1,000 fine.

The agreement includes $60,000 for fen restoration in Marshall and Polk counties. Fen is a type of wetland that depends on groundwater.

"The terms of the diversion agreement are greater than the State could have won if Enbridge had been convicted of the misdemeanor charge at trial," Ellison's office said. 

The 1,100-mile tar sands pipeline, which has long been the target of protests, went on line last fall and carries heavy crude oil through northern Minnesota, from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin.

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