PHMSA Fines Enbridge Energy Record $3.7 Million

The fine announced July 2 is a civil penalty for the July 25, 2010, spill of 20,000 barrels of crude oil from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich.

The U.S. Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed a record $3.7 million civil penalty and 24 actions against Enbridge Energy in connection with the July 25, 2010, spill of some 20,000 barrels of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich. About 38 miles of the river were contaminated, and the final section of it only reopened on June 21, 2012, according to the response website posted by Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P., which is an energy company based in Houston.

"We will hold pipeline operators accountable if they do not follow proper safety procedures to protect the environment and local communities," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said July 2.

The notice of probable violation and proposed civil penalty sent by PHMSA on July 2 to Richard Adams, vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership, says the pipeline failed "despite a series of In-Line Inspections" the company had performed as part of its integrity management program. "Multiple corrosion and crack-like anomalies on the pipe joint that failed on July 25, 2010, had been reported from the previous ILI runs, but Enbridge did not conduct any field examination of the reported anomalies prior to [the] Accident," PHMSA alleged.

The pipe rupture was not recognized by Enbridge personnel and the isolation valves were not closed until about 17 hours after the break occurred, during which time an additional 16,431 barrels of oil were injected into the pipeline, increasing the spill volume well above Enbridge’s worst case discharge scenario for this location, according to PHMSA.

Enbridge has 30 days to respond to the notice.

Enbridge says it reviewed its processes and procedures after the incident, "and we have enhanced our focus on the safety and integrity of our operations even further. For example, we have made several changes to the structure and leadership of functional departments such as pipeline control, leak detection and system integrity."

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