- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has ordered Enbridge Energy Partners to pay $3.32 million for failure to follow environmental laws during construction of a portion of the company’s $2.9 billion Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project earlier this year.
- Enbridge began work at the Clearbrook, Minnesota, site early this year but did not follow the construction plans it had provided to the department, according to a Sept. 16 statement from the DNR. The plans called for the use of traditional trench construction methods at a depth of 8 to 10 feet. The company instead constructed the trench at a depth of approximately 18 feet with sheet piling installed to a depth of 28 feet.
- This deviation led to a breach of the confining layer of an artesian aquifer, resulting in an uncontrolled flow of groundwater into the trench. Enbridge failed to notify DNR of the groundwater situation, the statement said.
The fines include a restoration order requiring $300,000 in initial mitigation funds to pay for the loss of groundwater resources, $250,000 for DNR monitoring of wetlands near the area of the aquifer breach and a $20,000 administrative penalty order, the maximum allowed under state law. The DNR has also ordered Enbridge to place $2.75 million in escrow for restoration and mitigation of any damage to the unique type of wetlands known as calcareous fen wetlands, which rely on an upwelling of mineral-rich groundwater to thrive.
The Line 3 project is replacing a 1,097-mile-long crude oil pipeline that runs from Edmonton, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin.
Enbridge is also required to implement a restoration plan to stop the unauthorized groundwater flow within 30 days. The order requires the company to conduct additional groundwater and site monitoring and report the results, and also to develop a management plan. Additionally, to ensure that violations haven’t occurred elsewhere, the DNR is requiring Enbridge to fund a re-inspection of any and all areas along the route where construction depths deviated from plans.
The DNR has also referred the matter to the Clearwater County Attorney for criminal prosecution under a statute that makes it a crime to appropriate “waters of the state without previously obtaining a permit from the commissioner.”
An Enbridge spokesperson told Construction Dive that the company is reviewing the DNR order.
“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,” communications specialist Juli Kellner said in an email. “We share a strong desire to protect Minnesota waters and the environment and we are committed to restoration. We will continue to work closely with the agency on the resolution of this matter.”