Energy Firm Fined $2.4 Million Following Fatal Pipeline Spill

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced more than $2.4 million in fines against Enbridge Energy Partners LP for violations of federal pipeline safety regulations. On Nov. 28, 2007, two Enbridge employees were killed when repairs to an Enbridge pipeline on their Lakehead system in Clearbrook, Minn. caused leaking crude oil to ignite.

An extensive accident investigation conducted by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) found Enbridge failed to safely and adequately perform maintenance and repair activities, clear the designated work area from possible sources of ignition, and hire properly trained and qualified workers. PHMSA's year-long investigation led to issuance of a notice of proposed violation to Enbridge and a subsequent hearing, prior to this final order.

"Safety is the number one priority of this department," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This department holds pipeline operators accountable for protecting their own workers as well as the health, welfare, and safety of American communities where they operate."

A final order issued by PHMSA details the violations of federal pipeline safety regulations and imposes the $2,405,000 civil penalty. Enbridge also must revise and implement certain pipeline maintenance and repair procedures, as well as train and re-qualify its employees.

PHMSA is also issuing two additional final orders to Enbridge totaling $57,800 in civil penalties for violations identified following inspections at facilities in Houma, La., in 2006 and Cushing, Okla., in 2009. During inspections in Houma, PHMSA discovered failures by Enbridge Offshore Gas Gathering LLC, to properly monitor for internal corrosion and perform valve maintenance procedures resulting in a civil penalty of $29,000. Inspections at the company's Cushing Terminal facility resulted in a civil penalty of $28,800 for failing to properly inspect in-service breakout tanks.

Enbridge Energy Partners owns and operates liquid petroleum and natural gas transportation businesses with pipelines in 18 states.

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