Minnesota DNR belatedly provides new information on Line 3 aquifer breeches
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had raised a number of warnings about Enbridge’s plan to replace its Line 5 tar sands pipeline, including the pipeline’s impact on water quality and Native nations.
The pipeline would run through the watershed that feeds into the Kakagon-Bad River Slough Complex, which abuts Lake Superior. It’s an environmentally sensitive area: 10,760 acres of mostly undeveloped sloughs, bogs, and coastal lagoons, critical to the lake’s health.
For instance, the area harbors “the largest natural wild rice bed on the Great Lakes,” according to the Ramsar International Treaty. “[T]hese wild rice beds are becoming increasingly fragmented on Lake Superior – as the only remaining extensive coastal wild rice bed in the Great Lakes region, it is critical to ensuring the genetic diversity of Lake Superior wild rice.”
The environmental group WaterLegacy and the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa scored a major victory to enforce state water quality rules that protect wild rice.
It’s a huge ruling. It should affect the MPCA’s oversight of existing projects, such as the MinnTac Mine (which has never complied with wild rice water quality standards). It should affect the MPCA’s review of projects in the queue, such as the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
Enbridge has reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it began purging the old Line 3 pipeline of its tar sands crude oil on Oct. 1, according to an EPA statement to Healing Minnesota Stories. Enbridge expects to complete the purge by Nov. 5,
Enbridge told the EPA it began cleaning the pipeline with a “cleaning pig” on Oct. 2. It expects to finish the cleaning work by Sept. 30, 2022, the statement said.
If Enbridge meets those goals, it would be in compliance with a 2017 federal Consent Decree.
A major reason the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted to approve the new and larger Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline is because commissioners were deathly afraid that original (and aging) Line 3 would rupture and spill somewhere along its northern Minnesota route.
Recall that then-PUC Commissioner Dan Lipschultz famously said that he felt like he had “a gun to the head,” meaning he either approved the new Line 3 or risked a major spill on the old Line 3.
Enbridge filed notice with the PUC Sept. 29 that Line 3 “is expected to be placed into service, with line fill activities reaching Minnesota, as early as October 3, 2021.”
That should put the gears in motion to shut down the old Line 3. That was the deal.
I’m guessing Enbridge would like to double dip as long as it can, running both pipelines and getting more profits. So who’s going to force Enbridge to stop running the old Line 3?
It’s the federal government’s responsibility, but exactly when that will happen isn’t clear.
The PolyMet ruling forces EPA, MPCA to do their jobs
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa won a big court victory in February in its ongoing effort to stop multinational corporate giant Glencore from building the PolyMet copper mine upstream from its reservation.
The Band has significant and legitimate concerns that the PolyMet mine would worsen an already bad problem of mercury-contaminated fish and water for its community. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knew of the problem and was supposed to notify Fond du Lac so it could participate in the permitting process.
The court ruled the EPA failed to follow the law. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended PolyMet’s permit to fill or dredge a large area of wetlands for its mine. “It also means that five major permits for the $1 billion PolyMet project are now stayed or under review,” the Star Tribune wrote.
“The move spotlights the Band’s groundbreaking effort to assert Indigenous water quality standards as a ‘downstream state’ under the Clean Water Act,” it said.
The court ruling also spotlights lax environmental oversight by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the EPA.
Part II of a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.
Water is central to Minnesota’s identity – the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We pride ourselves in clean water and a clean environment, and preserving it for future generations.
We want to believe that rules and laws apply equally. Just because someone has more money or more political clout doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to them.
Yet for decades, U.S. Steel’s Minntac mining operation has violated state water quality rules, notably the “Wild Rice Rule” that limits sulfate pollution to protect wild rice. When wild rice dies, the harm falls hardest on the Ojibwe people for whom it’s a sacred food.
Sandy and Little Sandy lakes, just downstream from Minntac, once had 200 acres of wild rice which are now gone.
It’s the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) job to “to protect and improve the environment and human health.” Yet taking the Minntac taconite mine as a case study, the agency has failed to do its job. Continue reading →