Enbridge to pay $1.8M in pipeline inspection dispute
Enbridge Energy will pay more than $1.86 million for alleged delays last year in pipeline inspections, including parts of the Line 5 pipeline in Michigan.
The fine stems from six 2017 inspections that the federal government said did not occur in the timeframe agreed on in a 2016 consent settlement between the Obama administration and the Alberta-based energy company after the 2010 oil spill near Marshall.
Enbridge made no admission of liability for the 2017 inspections, but agreed to pay $1,863,000 within 30 days of the agreement filed Wednesday.
Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes said Friday the inspections have been completed, and no safety concerns were noted.
“To ensure focus on safe operation of the pipelines and to maintaining our commitments under the Consent Decree, we have agreed to pay a penalty to resolve the matter,” Barnes said in a statement. “We have reached agreement on the inspection schedule going forward.”
During the July 2010 spill, more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude leaked from a ruptured pipe into the Talmadge Creek area, which fed into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge did not identify the leak for 17 hours, and the spill ended up affecting nearly 40 miles of the river.
It was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, and Enbridge spent four years and more than $1 billion to clean it up.
In a consent decree with the U.S. government — signed in 2016 and updated in 2017 — Enbridge agreed to pay about $177 million and agreed to inspections of additional pipelines in Enbridge’s Lakehead system.
The EPA found that six inspections did not meet the agreed upon time period, but Enbridge said there was some dispute about when the requirement took effect.
Enbridge said its inspections complied with federal requirements, but the timeline the U.S. is implying would have required Enbridge to complete the inspections prior to the effective date of the consent decree.
Barnes said the disputed inspections did not include the portion of Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac, a segment of pipeline that’s worried environmentalists and state officials because of its age and potential effects on the Great Lakes should a spill occur. In early April, the Straits segment was dented in a suspected anchor strike that severed two utility lines.
The segments subject to the disputed inspections included ones near Bay City, Iron River, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ontario.
In a statement issued Friday, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign said the latest court action makes it clear Enbridge cannot be trusted to run its pipelines through the Midwest.
“A leak or spill in the Great Lakes region would be devastating, and it’s time we stopped letting Enbridge gamble with our water, our economy, and the health and safety of our communities,” said Cathy Collentine, associate director for the group. “We need immediate action to shut down Line 5 and stop Enbridge’s dangerous plans to expand their tar sands pipeline network across some of our country’s most critical bodies of water.”