Enbridge reaches $176 million settlement for 2010 pipeline spill in Michigan

CALGARY – Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy Partners has reached a $176 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA following the July 2010  release of an estimated 843,000 gallons of heavy crude. In addition to a $61 million penalty, the deal requires spending on measures to prevent future spills, detect leaks and emergency preparedness across Enbridge's 2,000-mile pipeline network. Despite the settlement being the second largest penalty in U.S. history assessed under violations of the after Deepwater Horizon, Environmental activists have decried the settlement as a slap on the wrist.

Enbridge has replaced the ruptured line, known as 6B, which begins in Griffith, Indiana, crosses southern Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Ontario. Under the settlement, it also will replace nearly 300 miles of Line 3 between Neche, North Dakota, and Superior, Wisconsin. In addition Enbridge will pay $1 million for a separate 2010 spill in Romeoville, Illinois, and hire an independent auditor to ensure the company’s compliance. The company has already spent $1.2 billion for cleanup and environmental restoration.

The crude spill occurred near Marshall, Michigan, oozed into Talmadge Creek, and then the Kalamazoo River. It damaged shorelines and wetlands, prompted an evacuation warning for some riverfront residents and harmed thousands of animals, birds and fish.

As oil oozed into the waterways, control center personnel in Canada misinterpreted alarms and made things worse by pumping even more oil into the line, investigators said. It took 17 hours for the company to realize what was happening.

Brad Shamla, Enbridge Vice President for U.S. operations, said Enbridge has spent $5 billion on maintenance, inspection and leak detection since the Michigan spill. The company has added control center staff and conducted nearly 1,600 in-house exercises, drills and deployment simulations.

Fourteen remotely controlled oil flow valves will be replaced across the Lakehead network and new leak-spotting equipment added. Enbridge will undergo four training exercises to prepare for a major inland spill, plus smaller-scale sessions with first responders elsewhere, while keeping emergency equipment on hand.

The agreement was filed with the U.S. District Court for Michigan's Western District. After a 30-day public comment period, a judge will decide whether to accept it.

"From the beginning, we've taken responsibility for the Line 6B release. We accept the civil penalties and enhanced safety measures in the Decree. The enhanced safety measures included in the Decree are consistent with our approach to safety and integrity and our current practices and have largely been implemented over the past six years," said Mark Maki, President for the Partnership. "In fulfilling the terms of the agreement, we will cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

Portions of the Kalamazoo River were re-opened for recreational use beginning in April of 2012. All portions of the Kalamazoo River have been open since October of 2014, and state and federal regulators have determined the river and other impacted areas to be completely cleaned. EEP also built new recreational facilities and river access and improved existing facilities, creating an endowment to provide for long-term maintenance of those new facilities.