Enbridge to pay $176 million in Michigan oil spill settlement
21 July 2016
Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Energy will pay $176 million to settle the July 2010 pipeline leak that polluted nearly 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan under an agreement announced on July 19 with the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency. A smaller spill near Romeoville, Illinois, that took place two months earlier will cost a further $1 million.
More than 1.1 million gallons of oil leaked from Enbridge’s 30-inch transmission line for more than 17 hours before the company was alerted by a third party of the environmental catastrophe that fouled Talmadge Creek near the town of Marshall and about 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River, the worst inland oil spill in US history.
Enbridge agreed to pay over the course of the four-year agreement: About $110 million in injunctive relief to offset the damage done by the spill and prevent further disasters; $61 million in penalties for the Marshall spill; $1 million in penalties for the Romeoville spill and $5 million to federal agencies to recoup their costs associated with their response to the Marshall spill.
Additionally, Enbridge pledged to replace 300 miles of a pipeline and hire an independent auditor to make sure the company complies with the deal.
The penalty is the largest ever assessed for violations of the federal Clean Water Act except those stemming from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico six years ago, said John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's environment and natural resources division.
"We think these very strong measures will go a long way to make sure this kind of disaster will not happen again," said Cynthia Giles, the EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement.
The company, based in Calgary, Alberta, has already paid $1.2 billion for cleanup and environmental restoration, which was completed in 2014. It reached a $75 million deal with the state last year and bought 154 residences in the affected area.
Enbridge says it has spent $5 billion on maintenance, inspection and leak detection since the Michigan spill.
The consent agreement also requires Enbridge to take steps to shore up the integrity of its ageing Line 5, twin pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac that environmentalists have warned could cause a disaster many times worse than the Kalamazoo spill if they were to burst.
Enbridge must install pipeline supports, conduct a pipeline movement study, and make quarterly inspections using acoustic leak detection technology under the terms of the consent agreement.
Enbridge has also replaced the ruptured line, known as 6B, which begins in Griffith, Indiana, crosses southern Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Ontario. Under the settlement, it will also replace nearly 300 miles of Line 3 between Neche, North Dakota, and Superior, Wisconsin.
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