Associated Press

Minnesota regulators have ordered Enbridge to pay more than $3 million for allegedly violating state environmental law by piercing a groundwater aquifer during construction of the Line 3 oil pipeline.

The state Department of Natural Resources said Enbridge, while working near Clearbrook in January, dug too deeply into the ground and pierced an artesian aquifer, which resulted in a 24 million gallon groundwater leak.

“Enbridge’s actions are a clear violation of state law, and also of the public trust,” said Barb Naramore, the department’s deputy commissioner. “That is why we are using all of the tools in our authority to address the situation.”

Juli Kellner, communications specialist with Enbridge wrote in an email to Indian Country Today that the company just received the information from the DNR and are reviewing the document. “Enbridge has been working with the DNR since June to provide the required site information and approval of a corrective action plan which is currently being implemented. We will continue to work closely with the agency on the resolution of this matter,” Kellner wrote.

Follow ICT's Enbridge coverage: A Pipeline Runs Through It

In an email statement to Indian Country Today, Winona LaDuke, executive director for Honor the Earth wrote, “Enbridge is a rogue corporation that caused the largest inland oil spill in US history and has now damaged Minnesota’s most precious waters during construction of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The Biden Administration would only be doing its basic due diligence by finally requiring a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before any oil goes in this hurriedly-constructed new pipeline.

“Minnesota’s statewide leaders like Governor Walz and Senators Smith and Klobuchar should mitigate the damage already done to our water— and protect our shared climate —by asking the U.S. Army Corps for a full EIS before more tar sands crude oil flows.”

It wasn’t until mid-June that the Department of Natural Resources discovered something was wrong after speaking to independent construction monitors who had observed water pooling in the pipeline trench near Clearbrook.

The department has ordered Enbridge to put $2.7 million into escrow for restoration and damage to nearby wetlands. Enbridge is also required to pay $300,000 to mitigate the lost groundwater and $250,000 for long-term monitoring of the wetlands. Enbridge is also ordered to implement a restoration plan to stop the unauthorized groundwater flow within 30 days and ensure that violations haven’t occurred elsewhere along the pipeline.

The department has referred the matter to the Clearwater County Attorney for criminal prosecution; Enbridge violated a Minnesota statute that makes it a crime to appropriate waters of the state without previously obtaining a permit from the commissioner, according to the department.

Enbridge’s 340-mile Line 3 pipeline will carry Canadian crude across northern Minnesota to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The pipeline, opposed by environmental groups and some Ojibwe tribes.

ICT logo bridge

ICT's Mary Annette Pember contributed to this report.