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Insufficient 2010 Enbridge Oil Disaster Settlement Shows Tougher Laws Needed

$62 Million Settlement and Requirements for Basic Inspections and Maintenance Won’t Deter Future Negligence

Ann Arbor, MI – The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency have reached a settlement with Enbridge Energy for just $62 million with no criminal action over the largest inland oil disaster in America’s history, the 2010 pipeline rupture that sent as much as one million gallons of heavy crude oil from Canada's tar sands into the Kalamazoo River watershed.  The settlement also includes “at least $110 million on a series of measures to prevent spills and improve operations across nearly 2,000 miles of its pipeline system in the Great Lakes region.”

“A $62 million penalty and promises to maintain pipelines as a penalty for the worst inland oil disaster in U.S. history is woefully insufficient and shows that Congress and the Obama administration must work together to strengthen penalties. Considering Enbridge reported a $937 million profit for the first quarter of 2016, a $62 million fine and assurances that Enbridge will do basic inspections and maintenance could be merely considered a cost of doing business, rather than true deterrent to prevent negligent oil disasters that devastate our communities, contaminate our drinking water, and threaten America’s fish and wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

 In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed a $3.7 million civil penalty and 24 actions against Enbridge, finding “multiple violations of its hazardous liquid pipeline safety regulations related to integrity management, failure to follow operations and maintenance procedures, and reporting and operator qualification requirements.”  The National Transportation Safety Board’s spokesperson compared Enbridge’s response to the Kalamazoo oil spill to the Keystone Cops, citing a “pervasive organizational failure” and “culture of deviance”.

“At a time when the Great Lakes are threatened by Enbridge’s aging Line 5, this settlement shows we can’t count on oil companies’ assurances or our inadequate system of fines to protect the world’s most important freshwater resource,” said Mike Shriberg, NWF’s Great Lakes Regional Executive Director.  “The only real protection is stopping the flow of oil along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.”

The National Wildlife Federation sued the Department of Transportation last October for failing to implement the Clean Water Act when considering oil pipeline spill response plans for major waterways across the country. NWF sued PHMSA in May, asserting the agency illegally authorized the oil spill response plans for the Mackinac Straits pipeline by ignoring the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. 

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