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Minnesota state lawmakers urge Pollution Control Agency to halt Line 3 permits after spills, drought

Thirty-two Minnesota legislators are urging the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to temporarily suspend Enbridge's permits for the Line 3 pipeline replacement project after nine drilling fluid spills have been reported along the project and the state faces widespread drought.

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Construction on Line 3 began Dec. 1 after the project received its final permits, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments this week about the need for the pipeline. Enbridge supplied a photo packge, including this photo, to the media in late Feb. 2021 when they announced Line 3 was 50 percent complete.
Jeff Frey
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — Thirty-two state legislators have signed a letter requesting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) temporarily suspend permits for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project in light of widespread drought throughout the state, as well as recent drilling fluid spills at construction sites.

In the letter dated Tuesday, July 27, the state representatives and senators implored MPCA to release further information on nine reported spill incidents along the Line 3 construction path, saying the agency’s “transparency throughout this process is instrumental in addressing these incidents and enforcement violations.” They requested details in writing on the timing of each incident and when the state was made aware, and whether drilling has resumed at those sites.

And because of Minnesota’s statewide drought, the lawmakers wrote that they’re concerned over whether any spills can be adequately diluted by water in impacted waterways and wetlands.

Juli Kellner, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said in an emailed response Wednesday, July 28, that the drilling fluid used at the sites is a nontoxic bentonite clay solution approved by MPCA and the state Department of Natural Resources. When spills are detected, she said drilling is “ immediately shut down” and crews clean up and contain the spills as required in their permits. In all nine of the recent incidents, she said MPCA and DNR were notified and cleanups were monitored by inspectors and third-party agency monitors.

“In eight of the nine instances, drilling mud was contained entirely on land and cleaned up,” she continued. “In the case of the Willow River there were no impacts to any aquifers nor were there downstream impacts because environmental control measures were installed at the location.”

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As for drought concerns, she said this summer’s hot, dry conditions “are concerning to everyone,” and that Enbridge is working with state agencies to protect and conserve water. DNR has already suspended the use of some water sources in particularly dry watersheds.

The lawmakers in Tuesday’s letter asked MPCA to temporarily suspend Enbridge’s 401 Certification, and “immediately halt all drilling along the Line 3 route until the state is no longer experiencing drought conditions and until a thorough investigation can be completed by your agency so that the causes of these releases are fully understood and further releases can be avoided.” They also asked for MPCA’s written response by Monday, Aug. 2.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
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