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In 2004 an inspectors working for Enbridge Energy discovered a potential crack in it pipeline near Marshall Creek a tributary emptying into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge Energy flouted safety rules and ignored the problem until 2010 when a major rupture occurred the pipeline. During the 2010 pipeline spill once again Enbridge ignored safety procedures and kept the heated diluted Bitumen flowing through the pipeline and into Marshall Creek for over 17 hours after pipeline operators knew they had a problem. Over 1.1-million gallons thick tarry diluted Bitumen flowed into Marshall Creek and the Kalamazoo River.  

$3.7 million in proposed federal penalties against Enbridge Energy for Kalamazoo River oil spill highlight possible holes in regulations, pipeline safety advocates say

By Fritz Klug

MARSHALL, MI — Enbridge Energy first knew in 2004 that there was corrosion in the section of pipeline that ruptured six years later and spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into Kalamazoo River, according to regulators.

Enbridge, which under federal regulations had 180 days to address the problem, was issued a potential fine of $1 million fine for that problem by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on Monday, among 24 possible violations totaling $3.7 million issued by the federal agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Carl Weimer, president of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit organization focusing on pipeline safety, said the release shows where there could be improvement in regulations.

"It appears there is too much flexibility to how companies respond to what they find or not interpreting (the regulations) right," Weimer said.

The Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River was the first diluted bitumen spill of its size in the U.S. Enbridge says there is no difference in the types of oil it ships from Alberta than any other crude, but environmental organization's like the NRDC have said the oil is more corrosive than regular crude and can cause pipelines to deteriorate. Swift's organization has pushed for different regulations for different kinds of oil.

Diluted Bitumen has a tendency to sink in bodies of water leaving a toxic sticky tarry layer along the bottoms of streams rivers and lakes. This makes it much more difficult to clean up spills of diluted Bitumen than spills of conventional oil that tend to stay on the water's surface.

Record $3.7M penalty proposed for Enbridge Energy role in crude oil spill

By Todd Spangler and Eric D. Lawrence

Last month, the Free Press reported that a 34-mile portion of the Kalamazoo River, which Talmadge Creek feeds into and which had been closed after the oil spill, had finally been reopened to recreation, though cleanup efforts were still continuing nearly two years later. While Enbridge had estimated the size of the spill at more than 800,000 gallons, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said more than 1.1-million gallons of oil had been recovered from the site of the spill.

It was considered the largest spill in the Midwest ever.

“I’m not sure that that’s enough. I don’t think it’s a big enough hit to their bottom line to make a difference,” Deb Miller, who owns Miller’s Carpet in Ceresco along the Kalamazoo River, said of the proposed penalty. “There’s no amount of money and fines that pays us as a community back for what happened.”
This fine will get Enbridge’s attention but its probably isn't big enough to cause the pipeline giant much financial pain.
Enbridge faces $3.7-million penalty for Michigan oil spill

Enbridge’s control centre in Edmonton was undertaking what was supposed to be a 10-hour shutdown of the pipe when the failure occurred around 6 p.m. EDT, setting off alarms, Barrett’s letter said. Instead of implementing procedures for dealing with emergencies and suspected leaks, operators left the line idle.

Around 4 a.m. on July 26, 2010, a different crew restarted the line and soon received alarms and troubling messages: Pressure at the Marshall pumping station wasn’t rising as expected and there was a significant imbalance between the volume of oil being pumped into the line and the volume it was delivering.

Still, personnel took no emergency actions and kept the oil flowing for an hour, sending more than 1.66-million litres of heavy crude into the pipe. After evaluating the situation they again started the line. Despite receiving more alarms, they injected nearly 920,000 additional litres over a half-hour before shutting it down again.

“By this time the prospects of a suspected leak had been openly discussed by various ... personnel, yet the Enbridge procedures for a suspected leak were not executed,” Mr. Barrett said.

The Keystone Pipeline's promoters keep assuring us this kind of scenario is nearly impossible, but this spill far exceeded what Enbridge had considered the worst case accident along its pipeline in Michigan. The pipeline industry presents a rosy picture that is a far cry from the "let it slide" corporate culture inside too many of these giant energy corporations.

Originally posted to Lefty Coaster on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 04:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and DK GreenRoots.

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