A massive oil spill in Michigan has Minnesota lawmakers asking that the pipeline owner, Enbridge Energy Partners Ltd., be investigated that similar leaks don't happen here.
A ruptured 5-foot section of pipeline spilled more than 1 million gallons of crude oil, by Environmental Protection Agency estimates, into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge says it has recovered about half of the oil spilled, which spread over a 25.mile section of the river.
Even though Enbridge has isolated the problem and replaced the broken pipe, a federal agency in the Department of Transportation won't let Enbridge restart operations before it has approved a restart plan.
Minnesota's two senators and Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District, are leery about Enbridge's ability to contain a spill or should an accident occurs in Minnesota.
In a July 29 letter to the head of the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., urged an investigation into Enbridge.
Franken asked that Enbridge be "held fully responsible for all damages associated with the spill" and that the agency "conduct a full investigation of this spill to identify the cause of the rupture, investigate Enbridge's safety record, and take strong steps to prevent similar catastrophes from happening in the future."
Last week, the agency announced it would conduct a full investigation, and it denied Enbridge's request to restart the pipeline.
"I find it disturbing that Enbridge couldn't put together a plan to safely restart their pipeline and I'm glad they won't be operating until they do," said Franken. "Enbridge's continued neglect of the safety of its employees and the environment is inexcusable. I will do everything I can to ensure Minnesota doesn't experience another tragedy because a company like Enbridge wasn't held accountable."
There are six Enbridge pipelines that run through northern Minnesota, pumping 1.87 million barrels of oil per day. In 2007, an explosion on an Enbridge pipeline near Clearbrook killed two workers and caused serious damage to sensitive wetlands.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration denied Enbridge Energy Partners' request to restart its pipeline because the agency believes that the company's plan did not demonstrate that it could be done safely. In addition, PHMSA could not determine that there were no other immediate threats on the line.
"The plan submitted Aug. 9 does not contain sufficient technical details or adequate steps to permit a conclusion that no immediate threats are present elsewhere on the line that require repair prior to any restart of the pipeline, even at a further reduced pressure," David Barrett, central region director for PHMSA, wrote Enbridge.
He gave the company until today to submit a revised plan that answers 10 points he raised about the initial plan.
"This is a tragedy for the people and wildlife of Battle Creek, and we must ensure Enbridge pays for all associated damages," said Franken. "Enbridge has an unacceptable safety record for its pipelines, and Minnesota has been directly impacted by it in the past."