PHMSA proposes record fine for Enbridge in 2010 Michigan spill

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed a record $3.7 million fine and 24 enforcement actions against Enbridge Energy Partners LP for a July 2010 crude oil spill near Marshall, Mich. Enbridge has 30 days to respond to the notice of probable violation, the US Department of Transportation agency said on July 2.

It said PHMSA investigators found multiple violations of the agency’s hazardous liquid pipeline safety regulations related to integrity management, failure to follow operation and management procedures, and reporting and operator qualification requirements.

Enbridge’s Line 6B of its Lakehead System ruptured on the evening of July 25, 2010, while the pipeline was in the process of a scheduled shutdown, according to PHMSA. Despite control center alarms, there were several attempts to restart the line, resulting in more pressure which expelled more oil, it said. A local natural gas company employee notified Enbridge’s control center about the spill on July 26 after more than 20,000 bbl of crude had been spilled, PHMSA said.

Enbridge deployed up to 2,000 people to clean up the banks of Talmadge Creek, where the rupture occurred, and the Kalamazoo River, and bought about 30 homes in the area over the next 2 months. Primary cleanup was completed by Sept. 27 and documentation submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency as extended restoration and maintenance of the affected waterway banks began.

The Houston limited partnership incurred $595 million of emergency response and environmental expenses and provisions for third-party claims related to that incident and to a subsequent release on Sept. 9, 2010, from its Lakehead 6A line near a Romeoville, Ill., industrial area, EEP said in its 2010 10-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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