Enbridge resolves federal charges stemming from 2010 pipeline leaks

Enbridge Energy Partners LP agreed to pay $177 million to resolve federal charges stemming from 2010 leaks from crude oil pipelines in Illinois and Michigan, the US Department of Justice and US Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced. They said that the proposed settlement includes a commitment to spend at least $110 million to prevent spills and improve operations across nearly 2,000 miles of pipelines in the Great Lakes region.

The agreement settles federal charges stemming from a July 25, 2010, rupture of EEP’s Line 26B near Marshall, Mich., which leaked at least 20,082 bbl (OGJ Online, July 29, 2010), and a Sept. 9, 2010, rupture of its Line 6A near Romeoville, Ill., where at least 6,427 bbl leaked. The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration subsequently proposed a record $3.7 million and 24 enforcement actions against EEP for the Michigan accident (OGJ Online, July 2, 2012).

“From the beginning, we’ve taken responsibility for the Line 6B release. We accept the civil penalties and enhanced safety measures in the decree,” EEP Pres. Mark Maki said in response to DOJ and EPA’s July 20 announcement. “The enhanced safety measures it includes are consistent with our approach to safety and integrity and our current practices, and have largely been implemented over the past 6 years.” He pledged the partnership’s cooperation with DOJ and EPA in fulfilling the agreement’s terms.

EEP also agreed to pay $62 million in fines for allegedly violating the federal Clean Water Act, $61 million for the Michigan incident and $1 million for the one in Illinois. The proposed settlement also resolves the Enbridge Inc. division’s liability under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, based on the Houston limited partnership’s commitment to pay more than $5.4 million to reimburse the government for cleaning up the Marshall spill and all future costs incurred in connection with that accident, DOJ and EPA said.

They said that the settlement includes specific requirements to prevent spills and enhance leak detection capabilities throughout EEP’s Lakehead pipeline system, a network of 14 pipelines spanning 2,000 miles across seven US states that handles 1.7 million b/d of crude. EEP also agreed to take major actions to improve its spill preparedness and emergency response programs, and replace close to 300 miles of one of its pipelines after obtaining all necessary approvals, the federal entities indicated.

They said that EEP agreed to spend at least $110 million to specifically:

• Improve leak detection and control room operations.

• Commit to meet additional leak detection and spill prevention requirements for a portion of its Line 5 that crosses the Mackinac Straits in Michigan.

• Create and maintain an integrated data base for the Lakehead pipeline system.

• Enhance its emergency response preparedness by conducting four spill response exercises to test and practice its response to a major inland oil spill.

• Improve training and coordination with state and local emergency responders by requiring incident command system training for employees, providing training to local responders, participating in area response training, and organizing response exercises.

• And hire an independent third party to assist with reviewing implementation of the proposed settlement’s requirements.

DOJ filed the proposed settlement on July 20 in US District Court for Western Michigan’s Southern District, with a 30-day comment period before it becomes final.

Commenting on the agreement, Enbridge Chief Executive Al Monaco said that what the company has learned in the 6 years since the accidents have made it better, and changed the ways that it thinks about safety.

Monaco said that following the Marshall spill, Enbridge and EEP significantly enhanced efforts between 2010 and 2014 to better understand its pipelines’ conditions and mitigate risks, while increasing staffing dedicated to preventative measures, maintaining system fitness and leak detection and pipeline control. Enterprise-wide, it spent nearly $5 billion to execute a comprehensive maintenance and inspection program using the most sophisticated inspection tools that were available, he indicated.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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