Enbridge fined $11 million over construction of Line 3 pipeline

(FOX 9)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa announced Monday over $11 million in fines, financial assurances, and environmental projects have been levied against Enbridge over spills and breaches caused by their Line 3 pipeline

The MPCA says it found Enbridge violated a series of regulations such as discharging construction stormwater in wetlands and releasing drilling mud into 12 different locations between June 8, 2021, and Aug. 5, 2021. 

RELATED: Enbridge ordered to pay $3M for Line 3 groundwater leak

In a press release, the MPCA also says the DNR has finalized two resolution agreements to address three aquifer breaches related to Line 3 construction. 

"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 in the press release. "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."

Enbridge’s Line pipeline became operational in November 2021. The MPCA permits remain in place as Enbridge works to restore all the construction sites along the line to their pre-construction condition. 

Here's a breakdown of the fines, according to the MPCA:

  • $150,000 in funds for the DNR and Fond du Lac to conduct ongoing monitoring
  • $20,000 (the statutory maximum) in penalty funds to the DNR
  • $105,000 in penalty funds to Fond du Lac
  • $200,000 to Fond du Lac for water quality enhancement projects
  • $300,000 in financial assurance funds available to the DNR, if needed, for restoration, mitigation, or monitoring
  • $1 million in financial assurance funds available to Fond du Lac, if needed, for restoration, mitigation, or monitoring

Separately, the DNR and Enbridge reached an agreement for two other aquifer breaches, one near Enbridge’s Clearbrook Terminal and the other near the LaSalle Creek Crossing. This builds on previous enforcement action taken in 2021, which included $20,000 in penalties, $590,000 for mitigation and monitoring, and $2.75 million in escrow as financial assurance for fen wetlands mitigation and restoration – if needed. The new agreement includes $165,400 in additional groundwater mitigation funds for the Clearbrook location.

For the LaSalle Creek site, the new agreement includes:

  • $100,000 in funds to conduct ongoing monitoring
  • $20,000 (the statutory maximum) in penalty funds
  • $200,000 in mitigation funds
  • $610,000 in financial assurance funds, if needed, for restoration, mitigation, or monitoring

The MPCA investigation results require Enbridge to:

  • Pay $2.395 million to the State of Minnesota
  • Fund $2.625 million to complete several supplemental environmental projects in affected watersheds along the project line

Line 3 was a controversial project to replace an aging oil pipeline through Minnesota. The pipeline was met with protests and concerns over the environment, while supporters said pipelines are a safe way to transport oil and noted the construction project would create jobs. 

Enbridge responds

Enbridge Energy released a statement Monday, saying it built the Line 3 pipeline under the "strictest environmental requirements" in Minnesota history, adding it "implemented strong environmental safeguards and protections" to meet the requirements. 

"We appreciate that we were able to come to agreement with the agencies and are committed to making this right," Enbridge said.

Here's the full statement:

"The Line 3 Replacement Project was built under the most comprehensive regulatory framework in the history of Minnesota resulting in the issuance of over 60 federal, state, local, and tribal approvals.  These approvals included the strictest environmental requirements in state history.  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. When events were identified, Enbridge reported them transparently and corrected them consistent with plans approved by the agencies. 

"As part of these agreements with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, Enbridge will provide the various entities a total of $11 million (US), the vast majority of which - $7.5 million – will be used to provide financial assurances and fund multiple environmental and resource enhancement projects.

"The Minnesota Attorney General will file a misdemeanor criminal charge for the taking of water without a permit at the Clearbrook aquifer – that charge against Enbridge will be dismissed following one-year of compliance with state water rules.

"We appreciate that we were able to come to agreement with the agencies and are committed to making this right.

"The Line 3 Replacement Project was a maintenance and safety-focused effort totaling $9 billion in private investment.  It modernized and replaced energy infrastructure on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.  A total of $3 billion was spent in Minnesota alone with an overall regional economic impact of $5 billion.   

"The project was completed and placed into service October 1 of last year."