The Top 10 Times Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline Has Failed Our Communities, Environment, and Indigenous Rights

♫The Worst is Yet to Come♫

Compiled by Honor the Earth

Ruptured Enbridge pipeline from Kalamazoo spill; 8/7/10 (photo credit: NTSB)

As Canadian multinational corporation Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline nears completion, Indigenous, environmental, and allied activists continue to mobilize across the country – and world – to call on President Biden to Stop Line 3 in order to uphold his commitments to climate protection and consultation with tribal governments.

Both President Biden’s address to the U.N. this week, where he vowed to “lead” on bold climate action, and the claim from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, when asked about Line 3, that President Biden has taken “every step he can take within his control, to move the climate agenda forward,” have renewed calls for the Administration to order a full Environmental Impact Statement before allowing tar sands oil to flow through the expanded Line 3 crude oil pipeline in Northern Minnesota.

To guide President Biden as he faces one of the most critical decisions of his Presidency, organizers at Honor the Earth compiled a list of Enbridge’s greatest hits in the Line 3 process:

1. Enbridge’s $3.2 million fine for aquifer breach: On September 16th, 2021, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that it had ordered Enbridge Energy to pay $3.32 million for failure to follow environmental laws. Enbridge breached the confining layer of an artesian aquifer, resulting in an unauthorized groundwater appropriation during the construction of the Line 3 replacement project near Enbridge’s Clearbrook Terminal. It also referred the case for criminal prosecution. The DNR’s published documents reveal that Enbridge caused major damage to the water table when it deviated from its approved construction plan in January, the damage is ongoing, and it is unclear how it can be repaired.

2. Treaty rights violations: Enbridge’s new Line 3 pipeline route crosses the 1854 and 1855 treaty territory, which established that the Anishinaabe people retain the right to hunt, fish, gather medicines, and harvest wild rice. The impact of construction — or worse, an oil spill — would permanently damage the Anishinaabe’s ability to exercise these rights. Building Line 3 is a human and treaty rights violation – cited by the United Nations – that would carry on a legacy of state and U.S. government-sanctioned oppression of Indigenous people, ignoring Native voices that are demanding this pipeline be stopped.

3. Paying off the police: Enbridge has so far paid Minnesota law enforcement $2 million to fund the policing of protests against construction of the Line 3 pipeline. Enbridge set up a fund called the Public Safety Escrow Trust in May, 2020 as part of its permitting process. The funds in this account have been used to reimburse costs associated with “maintaining the peace” around the pipeline, including for officer wages, lodging, and boom trucks, according to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Line 3 permits.

    • Rubber bullets, paid for by Enbridge: On July 29, 20 water protectors were brutalized as they peacefully protested at the drill pad on the Red River. Police officers at the scene met the peaceful water protectors with mace, tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper bullets (Video). Activists were arrested and taken to Pennington County jail, where several were denied food and medical care for their injuries and held in solitary confinement, the group claimed.

4. 1 summer, 28 spills, 12 river crossings: The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported that Enbridge spilled drilling fluid 28 times at 12 river crossings between June 8th and August 5th. Of the 28 spills, one was in a river, 13 were in wetlands and 14 were on land, according to the MPCA. The amount of drilling fluid spilled ranged from 10 gallons to up to 9,000 gallons. Seven involved at least 100 gallons. The largest was a release of 6,000-9,000 gallons in a wetland near the Mississippi River.

5. Dewatering during a record-breaking drought: Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline means that they need to remove water during construction. They originally applied for a permit to drain 510 million gallons from wetlands and waterways along the new pipeline route, impacting critical resources including wild rice lakes. Over the summer, amid one of the worst droughts in Minnesota history, Enbridge requested permission to drain 10 times more water from the pipeline trenches than originally approved, resulting in up to 5 billion gallons.

Enbridge began to ask for these permit changes last winter, the DNR asked local, state and federal governments about it in March, and they didn’t let Minnesota Tribal Governments know until May.  The public didn’t get to find out until it was approved. The risk posed by moving this amount of water is unstudied and dangerous and all of this happened behind closed doors.

6. Enbridge losing required insurance: During the Line 3 permitting process, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required Enbridge to obtain $200 million of “environmental impairment liability” insurance, in addition to general corporate liability coverage of $900 million, and to include the State of Minnesota and several American Indian tribes as additional insureds on its policies. But Enbridge recently submitted a report to the Public Utilities Commission saying it will likely not be able to obtain this insurance “in the near future.”

7. Caught red handed; Unreported drilling spills: A community member recently identified and shared video of  a large new drilling fluid spill site near the Mississippi headwaters, not previously reported or mitigated by Enbridge or state agencies, in addition to the 28 “frac out” known incidents where Enbridge spilled drilling fluid spilled into wetlands and waterways. The news alarmed pipeline opponents — including some lawmakers — who had been demanding information about possible “frac-outs” along the route for weeks.

8. Sex trafficking stings among pipeline contractors: In less than six months, four sub-contractors working on Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline have been arrested in sex trafficking stings, first in Itasca County and now in Beltrami County. Advocates fighting the problem of Missing and Murdered Ingenous Women (MMIW) have warned that the Line 3 pipeline would raise the risk of sex trafficking. A 2019 report by First Peoples Worldwide at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a report by the U.S. State Department have shown that areas in which extractive industries operate experience higher rates of sex trafficking.

9. Kiss your clean air good-bye: The total lifecycle emissions from the Line 3 pipeline are estimated to amount to 193 million tons CO2e, more than doubling Minnesota’s 2016 total of 154 million tons CO2e and more than five times Minnesota’s 2050 state goal of 35 million tons CO2e. This is equivalent to 50 new coal-fired power plants or 38 million additional gasoline vehicles on our roads. The Minnesota Department of Commerce estimated that Line 3 will cost more than $287 billion in health care, agriculture and other sectors of our economy and society due to its pollution and contributions to climate change.

10. The United Nations weighs in: The United Nations took the extraordinary measure to request a response from the United States regarding allegations of human rights violations against the Anishinaabe associated with the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline construction. The letter notes, among other things, that these rights violations would amount to a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which the U.S. has signed and ratified.