EPA fines energy company $6.7 million for safety violations, reporting delays

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined Enbridge Energy $6.7 million after it said the company “failed” to fix dents in pipelines and had numerous delays reporting issues along its mainline route of oil pipelines to the federal agency, according to an article in the Duluth, MN News Tribune.

The $6.7 million total was agreed upon by the EPA and Enbridge last month as a settlement to alleged violations of a consent decree it signed with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2017 after the company’s Line 6B pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010.

Approximately $3 million of the fines came after Enbridge “failed to excavate and repair or mitigate shallow dents with indications of metal loss, cracking, or stress risers” along its Lakehead System across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to a May 8 letter sent to Enbridge by Matthew Russo, assistant region council for the EPA office in Chicago.

Most of the issues with dents were reported along Line 1, which was built in 1950, Enbridge said Thursday. Line 1 stretches from Edmonton to Superior and carries 237,000 barrels, or 9.95 million gallons, of oil per day. It is one of six pipelines following the same corridor across northern Minnesota.

“EPA identified numerous instances in which Enbridge failed to comply in a timely manner with Consent Decree provisions relating to certain intersecting or interacting features on Lakehead System pipelines. More specifically, Enbridge failed to complete timely identification and evaluation of thousands of ‘shallow dent’ features on Lakehead System pipelines to determine whether such dents met dig selection criteria,” Russo wrote.

Mike Koby, Enbridge’s vice president for U.S. liquids operations, told reporters in a conference call Thursday afternoon, that “there were never any safety issues with the pipelines involved.”

Koby characterized it as “a disagreement between Enbridge and the EPA regarding how we assess shallow dents under the consent decree,” and added that there is not a standard industry definition of “shallow dents” nor was it defined in the consent decree.

The remaining $3.7 million in fines came from what the EPA said were “several instances in which Enbridge failed to comply in a timely manner with certain requirements.” Koby said the missed deadlines were “largely administrative in nature.”

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