Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Over the last weeks, two events in the oil industry, along with the ongoing story of Enbridge’s harms to Minnesota during Line 3 construction, demonstrated just how dangerous it is for our state and federal authorities to deal with an industry committed to its own profit at the expense of the planet.
In California, an Amplify Energy pipeline ruptured off the coast of Los Angeles and Orange County, spilling between 25,000 and 131,000 gallons of oil into the coastal waters. The oil soon began contaminating miles of shoreline, including popular beaches and marshland habitat, heavily costing the local tourism economy. The spill has affected local wildlife, and is suspected to be behind the appearance of balls of tar floating off the coast as far as San Diego.
An investigation of the spill is underway, and authorities have found that a pressure alarm went off in the early hours of October 2nd, indicating a leak was underway, but Amplify waited three and a half hours before shutting down the pipeline. After that, Amplify waited another three hours before notifying the Coast Guard. The full timeline and details of the incident are not yet public knowledge, but it’s clear that Amplify Energy’s inaction delayed a response and worsened the spill.
Meanwhile an international dispute over the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline has pitted the state of Michigan and more than two dozen other U.S. entities against Enbridge and the government of Canada. After Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer revoked an easement that had allowed Enbridge to operate Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac and ordered its shutdown, the company defied her order. According to the Governor’s office, “Enbridge has been unlawfully trespassing on state land as it continues to pump oil under the Straits of Mackinac beyond the deadline to cease operations.”
Sixteen states, four Indigenous tribes, the District of Columbia, and seven private organizations have supported Michigan in court against Enbridge. But the Canadian government is seeking to support Enbridge by negotiating directly with U.S. federal authorities. Governor Whitmer has pledged to continue opposing Line 5, an aging line that presents a major spill risk at the intersection of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
This is the industry – and in the case of Michigan, the same company – that Minnesota has been told to trust as Enbridge activates its newly constructed Line 3 pipeline.
In September, MEP presented a webinar on the damage that Enbridge has already inflicted on state waters, including a devastating breach of an aquifer and causing at least 28 spills of drilling fluid in the Mississippi River watershed. We have since established an information hub for these issues on our website. We covered both issues in our Insider two weeks ago, but one key issue bears repeating: Enbridge actively covered up the aquifer breach, which violated its state permits, for at least five months.
Minnesotans were promised that the Line 3 construction process would not harm our waters. It did. We were promised that it would not exacerbate sex trafficking and harms to Indigenous women. It did. We were promised that the permits issued by the DNR and PCA would prevent Enbridge’s construction project from harming the state. They didn’t – though either agency could have stopped this pipeline in its tracks, and still could order it shut down while its harms are repaired.
We are dealing with a company that is responsible for the largest inland oil spill in United States and Minnesota history, a company whose fight against its tax assessment cost Minnesotans $45 million. We are dealing with a pipeline carrying enough oil to equal the emissions of 50 coal plants every year, a pipeline that the Minnesota Department of Commerce has agreed isn’t needed.
The question – in California, Michigan, and Minnesota – is not “How could this have happened?” The question is, given the history, why did anyone expect anything different?
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