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Enbridge fined $6.7 million for failing to fix pipeline safety issues

19 June 2020

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined Canadian energy company Enbridge $6.7 million for violating a 2017 settlement relating to pipeline safety issues. Enbridge announced on June 18 that it had agreed to pay the fine after the company failed to repair or mitigate thousands of “shallow dents” on its Lakehead pipeline in a timely fashion.

Enbridge head office - Image: Shutterstock
Enbridge head office - Image: Shutterstock

According to the Star Tribune newspaper, the EPA said that Enbridge had neglected to properly evaluate thousands of dents on the Lakehead pipeline. Just over $3 million of the fines are related to Enbridge’s failure to repair dents that showed indications of metal loss and cracking. The Lakehead pipeline system runs across northern Minnesota through northwestern Wisconsin. 

In a statement, Enbridge said it had agreed to pay the fines but that the company and the EPA had disagreed about the nature of the dents. As a result, the two parties cooperated to develop a Fifth Modification to the 2017 consent decree, an agreement which resolves a dispute without admission of liability. Enbridge added that there were never any safety issues with the pipelines involved. Instead, the company said that the penalties resulted from “compliance issues” and were largely administrative in nature, such as missing a timeline. 

The 2017 consent decree which Enbridge is said to have violated was signed with the US Justice Department to resolve claims stemming from two oil spills in Michigan and Illinois in 2010 which cost Enbridge $1.2 billion to clean up. As part of the decree, Enbridge agreed to pay $177 million and said it would improve pipeline safety. 

The dents which concern the EPA are located on Line 1 of Enbridge’s Minnesota corridor. The pipeline was built in 1950 and is one of six pipelines that makes up the corridor which carries around 237,000 barrels of oil per day. 

Enbridge said it had agreed to pay approximately $3.7 million in penalties regarding “six alleged non-compliance items” and approximately $3 million for “an alleged failure to complete identification and evaluation” of the shallow dents. Enbridge added that none of the violations resulted in safety issues, missed integrity risk reduction activities or damage to the environment. 

The Star Tribune reports that Enbridge was also fined in 2018 for violating the consent decree. The EPA fined the company $1.8 million for missing pipeline inspection deadlines.

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