State’s lack of transparency on Line 3 construction disrespects and traumatizes citizens

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) have utterly failed the public in proactively explaining what is happening on the ground regarding Enbridge Line 3 pipeline construction.

The project has traumatized many Native peoples, who say Line 3 violates their treaty rights and threatens their sacred wild rice. It has traumatized many other citizens, particularly young people, who believe Line 3’s climate impacts will significantly damage their future.

Water protectors on the ground still see problems along the route and struggle to get answers.

It’s the state’s job to inform the public about matters of great public interest. The state’s lack of transparency is inexcusable and infuriating.

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The MPCA failed at meaningful consultation with Native Nations on Line 3: Here’s what it did

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state and its various departments to “meaningful and timely consultation” with Native Nations on issues of mutual concern. So what did the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) “meaningful consultation” look like around Enbridge Line 3? Second in a two-part series.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) failed to engage Native Nations in “meaningful consultation” around the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline’s Water Quality Permit, according to documents obtained through the state’s Data Practices Act.

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Reading the fine print on the MPCA’s commitment to ‘meaningful consultation’ with Native Nations

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state and its various departments and agencies to “meaningful and timely consultation” with Native Nations on issues of mutual concern. So why didn’t the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) meaningfully consult with Tribes on Line 3? First in a two-part series.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approved several key permits for Enbridge to build its Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota’s streams, wetlands, and wild rice areas, including one certificate that’s supposed to protect water quality.

Under Walz’s executive order 19-24, the MPCA was supposed to engage in meaningful consultation with Native Nations. By all appearances, the agency failed to do so on Line 3.

Examining the MPCA’s tribal relations policies tells why.

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Enbridge has to clean up water it polluted decades ago in order to use it for Line 3 dewatering

Enbridge’s controversial plans to increase dewatering during Line 3 construction got an added complication: Workers need to dewater in areas where the company had past crude oil spills, leaving 8,400 gallons in ground for decades.

That means Enbridge has to treat the dewatered polluted water before returning it to the environment.

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Enbridge has spilled at least 10,000 gallons of drilling mud into MN streams, wetlands, and uplands, MPCA says

Enbridge has had at least 28 “frac-outs” while tunneling under Minnesota streams and wetlands to install its Line 3 tar sands pipeline. These have released between 10,000 and 13,000 gallons of “drilling mud,” according to data released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The drilling process requires using a special drilling mud that helps lubricate and cool the drill bit. The mud is under pressure and can get forced into subsurface soil cracks and pushed to the surface. This is called a frac-out. They can happen on land, in wetlands and in rivers and streams.

Line 3 drilling under the Mississippi River in Aitkin County resulted in the largest single spill, estimated between 6,000 and 9,000 gallons. It occurred in a wetland about a quarter-mile from the river, the MPCA said.

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Treaty People Walk for Water Aug. 7-25, Gazelka puts undue influence on MPCA to approve Line 3, and more

In this blog:

  • Treaty People Walk for Water, Aug. 7-25
  • Gazelka crosses line in Line 3 lobbying
  • What we know, and don’t know, about Enbridge’s drilling mud and frac-outs
  • MPCA not providing information on Line 3 frac-outs
  • Comments critical of the MPCA disappear from the MPCA’s Facebook Page.
  • Concerns raised that a federal bill gives “blank check” to crack down on pipeline protesters
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As Enbridge races to finish Line 3 construction, more suspected frac-outs

Water Protector Shanai Matteson points to the Willow River frac-out. Screengrab from Honor the Earth video.

On July 6, water protectors found an Enbridge Line 3 frac-out at the Willow River.

On Monday, Honor the Earth reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out at the Shell River. [Update July 22: The MPCA says there was no frac-out on the shell. It did report that Enbridge has had frac-outs at nine different construction sites. Updated blog coming soon.]

Today, the Indigenous Environmental Network reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out near the Mississippi headwaters. (Video here.)

Details of the frac-outs are still coming in.

It’s possible to see frac-outs on the surface of rivers and wetlands. There could be other frac-outs below the surface that remain unseen.

How many frac-outs will it take for state regulators to require something different, or do they dismiss frac-outs as an acceptable environmental cost?

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