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Minnesota counties could owe Enbridge millions

Polk County, Minn. - The state of Minnesota may have made a big mistake, and now you may have to pay for it.

A big oil company says they're owed millions and millions of dollars, and it could be up to local counties to make it right.

Enbridge has multiple petroleum pipelines passing through Minnesota, cutting across Kittson,  Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Polk, and Clearwater Counties.

Enbridge says after a change in the way the state taxes energy companies in 2012, they were overcharged millions of dollars.

It's hard not to notice Enbridge Energy, as it has made it's mark on Northwest Minnesota.

But soon these petroleum pipelines could represent something else; a huge debt owed to the corporation.

Polk County commissioners discussed it this week, ahead of a court case in October.

Chuck Whiting, Polk County Administrator says "We are preparing for the worst case scenario."

If Enbridge wins, Polk county we'll have to repay one-point-eight million in tax refunds, and they aren't the only ones.

According to Enbridge, Marshall County would owe 1.4 million dollars, a quarter of their budget.

Red Lake and Kittson Counties would each owe three million dollars.

For Kittson County, that would be a third of their budget.

Clearwater County would owe nearly 7 million dollars, more than their entire budget for 2017.

An Enbridge spokesperson says they'll give the counties the time they need, but that's not a lot of relief for leaders like Chuck Whitling.

"The decision happens so far after the fact that once we've levied money, we basically only levy for an operating budget. And this is our highest valued property. So Enbridge is our highest valued tax payer. To suddenly come up with  3 years of tax refunds on 2012, 2013, and 2014, most likely in 2018, is problematic,” says Whiting.

Now, Polk county is doing some calculating, and bracing for a bill they know will be hard to pay.

Minnesota lawmakers are working on a plan to get local counties off the hook, saying that the state is to blame, but bill sponsors are not optimistic.