Enbridge CEO: Personnel 'Were Trying to Do the Right Thing'

The Canadian company's chief cites "a series of unfortunate events and circumstances" after NTSB issues a critical report.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a tough report July 10 about the July 2010 spill of 843,000 gallons of crude oil from a 30-inch Enbridge Inc. pipeline near Marshall, Mich. The spill contaminated miles of the Kalamazoo River, one section of which finally was reopened last month.

The spill was not discovered or addressed for 17 hours after it began, and the report faults Enbridge for this. Cleanup costs so far have reached $767 million, according to NTSB.

The board concluded Enbridge made multiple mistakes, and its spill response was inadequate to a large-scale spill. The board determined the pipeline segment ruptured under normal operating pressure because of "corrosion fatigue cracks that grew and coalesced from multiple stress corrosion cracks, which had initiated in areas of external of corrosion beneath the disbonded polyethylene tape coating." Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 195.452(h) does not provide clear requirements on when to repair and when to remediate pipeline defects, it found, adding that the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration failed to pursue findings from previous inspections and did not require Enbridge to excavate pipe segments with crack defects. The board also found Enbridge's interpretation of the regulation delayed the repair of the pipeline.

Calgary, Canada-based Enbridge quickly posted a statement from its CEO, Patrick D. Daniel: "We very much appreciate the patience of residents in the communities who were affected by the Line 6B release. Under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local health authorities, the Kalamazoo River was re-opened last month for recreational use. We are also pleased to note that wildlife has returned to the area.

"We believe that the experienced personnel involved in the decisions made at the time of the release were trying to do the right thing. As with most such incidents, a series of unfortunate events and circumstances resulted in an outcome no one wanted."

The statement also quotes Stephen J. Wuori, president, Liquids Pipelines at Enbridge: "Safety has always been core to our operations. Our intent from the beginning of this incident has been to learn from it so we can prevent it from happening again, and to also share what we have learned with other pipeline operators. Enbridge and [Enbridge Energy Partners L.P.] conducted a detailed internal investigation of this incident in the months following the release and have made numerous enhancements to their processes, procedures and training as a result of the findings of the investigation, including in the control center. Incident prevention, detection and response have also been enhanced. We will carefully examine the findings in the NTSB report to determine whether any further adjustments are appropriate."

The company said it has taken numerous steps since the spill to improve its leak detection and inspection programs and has improved all aspects of its response preparations for spills.

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