Enbridge to Pay $177M to Settle Oil Spill Claims

     (CN) — Enbridge Energy will pay $177 million to settle claims related to oil spills in Michigan and Illinois, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday.
     Enbridge owned a 30 inch-pipeline, known as Line 6B, that ruptured near Marshall, Mich., on July 25, 2010, discharging oil into the environment. Even though the rupture triggered numerous alarms in Enbridge’s control room, the government claims Enbridge failed to recognize a pipeline had ruptured until at least 17 hours later.
     During that time, Enbridge restarted Line 6B on two separate occasions, causing additional discharges of oil into the environment. The government says Line 6B discharged at least 20,082 barrels of crude oil, much of which entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River which flows to Lake Michigan. Flooding caused by heavy rains pushed the discharged oil over the river’s banks into its flood plains and accelerated its migration over 35 miles downstream before it was contained.
     The government also claims that another Enbridge pipeline, known as Line 6A, discharged at least 6,427 barrels of oil on Sept, 9, 2010, much of which flowed through a drainage ditch into a retention pond in Romeoville, Ill.
     Enbridge will spend at least $110 million on a series of measures to prevent spills and improve operations across nearly 2,000 miles of its pipeline system in the Great Lakes region. Enbridge will also pay civil penalties totaling $62 million for Clean Water Act violations.
     “This was one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history when Enbridge discharged one million gallons of oil to Talmadge Creek near Marshall,” said Acting EPA Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan in a statement. “Together with our state and local emergency responders, EPA was able to contain the spill before it reached the Great Lakes. After 22 months of arduous cleanup work, the Kalamazoo River finally reopened for recreational activities.”
     The proposed settlement will resolve Enbridge’s liability under the Oil Pollution Act, based on Enbridge’s commitment to pay over $5.4 million in unreimbursed costs incurred by the government in connection with cleanup of the Marshall spill, as well as all future removal costs incurred by the government in connection with that spill.
     Enbridge must also implement an extensive set of spill prevention requirements and leak detection capabilities in its network of 14 pipelines spanning nearly 2,000 miles across seven states.
     “This agreement puts in place advanced leak detection and monitoring requirements to make sure a disaster like this one doesn’t happen again,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in a statement. “This comprehensive program — including an independent third party to audit compliance — will protect our waterways and the people who depend on them.”
     Enbridge has already reimbursed the government for $57.8 million in cleanup costs from the Marshall spill and $650,000 for cleanup costs from the Romeoville spill and Enbridge reportedly incurred costs in excess of $1 billion for required cleanup activities relating to the Marshall and Romeoville spills, in addition to the settlement.
     There will be a 30 day public comment period on the consent decree lodged today.

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