Record Fine Proposed for Enbridge for 2010 Michigan Oil Spill


Enbridge Inc. faces a proposed $3.7 million fine plus 24 enforcement actions for a crude-oil spill from a pipeline in the Kalamazoo River system in Michigan in July 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has announced.

“We will hold pipeline operators accountable if they do not follow proper safety procedures to protect the environment and local communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement announcing the record civil penalties.

The July 24, 2010, spill let loose at least 20,000 barrels of oil outside Marshal, Michigan. The PHMSA found multiple violations of its hazardous liquid pipeline safety regulations pertaining to “integrity maintenance, failure to follow operation and management procedures, and reporting and operator qualification requirements,” the statement said.

Not only did the rupture occur during a scheduled maintenance shutdown, the PHMSA found, but it also went undetected for 17 hours as they tried to restart the line a few times.

Stephen J. Wuori, an Enbridge executive, told the Associated Press that Enbridge has refined its safety procedures based on what officials learned from the incident.

“Enbridge completed a detailed internal investigation of this incident,” Wuori told the AP, adding, “numerous enhancements to the processes and procedures in our control center.”

The Calgary-based Enbridge has estimated its cleanup costs to be as high as $700 million, according to the Associated Press. Wuori said Enbridge will ”carefully examine” the penalty proposals. It has 30 days to respond.

Enbridge is the subject of much controversy in Canada, where its Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast to bring crude to Asia is under fire from dozens of First Nations and other opposition.

The fight mirrors that against the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S., which would bring oil sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico coast. That pipeline is being proposed by TransCanada.