Enbridge Line 3’s lingering question: Why do state regulators trust Enbridge?

And would they do anything different for the next pipeline proposal?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seemed to have had an unfounded confidence that Enbridge would follow the rules while building its new Line 3/93 tar sands pipeline across 337 miles of northern Minnesota.

As we now know, Line 3/93 construction resulted in three significant aquifer breaches and extensive water problems in Walker Brook Valley.

All were preventable. There is likely more damage than currently made public.

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Line 3 damage update: Last Fall, DNR issued Enbridge a permit to dewater another one billion gallons of groundwater

Ongoing repair work: Standing near Line 3’s Walker Brook crossing looking east. Photo: March, 2023

The environmental damage from building the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline appears to be much greater than what is publicly known.

In response to a Data Practice Act, Healing Minnesota Stories obtained a copy of a “Dewatering Permit” the Minnesota Department of Resources (DNR) issued Enbridge last Fall, more than ten months after construction was deemed complete and the pipeline operational.

The permit runs from Aug 12, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023, or more than 16 months. That’s more time than it took Enbridge (10 months) to build Line 3 in the first place.

The permit allows Enbridge to dewater up to one billion gallons per year. That’s double Enbridge’s initial 511 million gallon dewatering request to build the entire pipeline.

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Website launched ahead of trial for those at the Fire Light Treaty Encampment

One of the last criminal cases related to Enbridge Line 3 will start Monday, May 8, in Clearwater County.

Defendants in what is known as the Fire Light Treaty Encampment have created a website to explain their case and lift up the importance on non-Indigenous peoples being treaty partners and standing up to honor treaty rights. Click here for the website.

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Wow! FBI operative infiltrates large oil firm, reveals massive unreported environmental damage

Oops. Sorry. Didn’t happen. Just being ironic.

No, just more of the same. With echoes of J.Edgar Hoover, The Intercept reported March 21 that the FBI planted spies in racial justice groups in the wake of civil unrest following George Floyd’s 2020 murder by Minneapolis police. The FBI used the plants not only to gather intelligence, but also to encourage violence — in other words a taxpayer-funded, political effort to discredit racial justice work.

The story focuses on one particular spy who infiltrated a racial justice group in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The operative went by the name “Chelsie.” She had long, pink hair, claimed to be from Washington state and dropped hints she was a sex worker. Her real job was working as a detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department.

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News/Events: Native fashion, the brain and historical trauma, Line 3 legal update, and more

In this post:

  • Webinar on Native fashion and sovereignty tomorrow (Thursday)
  • NABS webinar on the brain and historical trauma
  • Line 3 legal defense fund update
  • U.S. Supreme Court holds oral arguments on Navajo water rights case
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Walker Brook shows we still don’t know the extent of Enbridge Line 3’s construction damage

Waadookawaad Amikwag is working to find out

Screen grab from a Waadookawaad Amikwag 2022 video. The wood-plank road allowed Enbridge to bring heavy equipment into a wetland.

Enbridge work crews officially finished building the new Line 3 tar sands pipeline across northern Minnesota in late September, 2021. The last section completed ran through the Walker Brook valley, a forested peat bog in Clearwater County.

Less than a year later, work crews returned to Walker Brook to fix problems created by this ill-considered and poorly permitted project.

State regulators haven’t talked about problems at Walker Brook publicly. Members of the public don’t know how many other Line 3/93 construction damage sites exist that they haven’t been told about. (Regulators don’t talk about them until they have been investigated and, if appropriate, levied fines, which leaves the public in the dark for long periods of time.)

I wouldn’t have known about the problems at Walker Brook but for friends who volunteer with a group called Waadookawaad Amikwag (Anishinaabemowin for Those who help beaver). They coordinate with drone pilots who monitor the Line 3/93 corridor looking for potential trouble spots. When problem areas are identified, volunteers go in on foot for a first-hand look.

On a recent Sunday, I joined my friends in what they call a “ground truthing” of the Walker Brook site.

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Events: The connection between extractive industries and MMIR, Reparations Learning Table, and more

In this post:

  • Webinar: Intersection of extractive industries and human trafficking in relation to the MMIR crisis, Monday
  • Reparations Learning Table (three events starting Thursday, Jan. 26)
  • Ojibwe Storytelling Series
  • Online Tar Sands Action Party, Sunday
  • Webinar: Christian Nationalism and the Threat to Human Rights, Wednesday, Jan. 25
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MPCA tries to restart Environmental Justice Advisory Group amid significant trust issues

This Tuesday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is hosting an information session for those interested in applying for its Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJ Advisory Group).

This is vitally important work. Potential applicants be warned, however, that the MPCA has not taken this group seriously in the past. The majority of its members (12 of 17) resigned in November, 2020 because the agency’s decision to permit the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The advisory group opposed the permits because of the project’s disproportionate impact on Anishinaabe Tribes located in northern Minnesota.

The fact that the MPCA has taken this long to reconstitute the group is a troubling sign.

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Enbridge needed more than 20,000 cubic feet of grout (concrete) to plug Line 3 aquifer breach near Fond du Lac

A photo essay

In 2021, Enbridge Line 3 construction workers breached an aquifer in St. Louis County, just 400 feet west of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation.

Enbridge hadn’t done — nor did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) require — any analysis of the area’s hydrology.

This was one of at least three such aquifer breaches created by Line 3 construction, a violation of Enbridge’s permit and state law.

The St. Louis County breach:

  • Took nearly seven months to repair. (The breach occurred Sept. 10, 2021 and the repair was reported complete on April 7.)
  • Released more than 263 million gallons of groundwater.
  • Required 24/7 grouting activities (think cement) to repair, starting March 8 and finishing April 5 (with two pauses to check for effectiveness).
  • Required more than 20,000 cubic feet of grout to fix, according to Enbridge’s final report on the repair. (That’s enough grout to build a wall two-feet thick, 20-feet tall, and 500-feet long.)
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