Report slams company’s history of oil spills, warns Portland

A worker monitors the water in Talmadge Creek in Marshall Township, Mich., near the Kalamazoo River as oil from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc, is vacuumed out the water. The pipeline rupture spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the river nearly two years ago.
Paul Sancya | AP
A worker monitors the water in Talmadge Creek in Marshall Township, Mich., near the Kalamazoo River as oil from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc, is vacuumed out the water. The pipeline rupture spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the river nearly two years ago.
Posted July 24, 2012, at 5:40 a.m.

A National Wildlife Federation report released Monday criticizes Enbridge Energy’s plans to expand its pipeline capacity in North America, including its reach in Portland, Maine, in light of the company’s more than 800 oil spills between 1999 and 2010.

Jeremy Symons, senior vice president for the National Wildlife Federation, noted that the company did not respond well following the 54 spills totaling more than 1.2 million gallons it had in 1999 because of the large number of spills in each of the subsequent years in studied in the report. In 2010, the company had 91 spills totaling 1.4 million gallons, according to the report ” Importing Disaster — The Anatomy of Enbridge’s Once and Future Spills.”

“You can’t make the same mistake 800 times,” Symons said during a conference call with reporters, indicating that the company’s history shows how it will perform in the future.

He referenced Enbridge’s plans for the Northern Gateway pipeline project that would ship oil to Asia through western Canada and the expansion plans for the company’s pipeline through Michigan that the National Wildlife Federation contends will eventually connect to Portland.

The Gateway project also has critics in Canada. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark warned that “the environmental risks associated with a plan to sell Canadian oil to Asia through the Northern Gateway pipeline outweigh the economic benefits,” according to a story in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail on Sunday.

“Giving Enbridge (the) green light to build a new pipeline is like giving someone who’s drunk the keys to the car. It’s irresponsible,” Symons said.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum called the report irresponsible and said it contains numerous errors and misrepresentations. He said the Marshall spill was an accident and that the company’s goal is zero incidents.

“According to publicly available incident data on the U.S. pipeline regulators website, Enbridge has had, over the past five years, seven leaks exceeding 10 barrels (13 leaks in all that were more than five gallons) on our cross-country pipelines in the United States. The remainder of the incidents involved leaks in equipment and within the stations or terminals,” Manshum wrote in an e-mail.

There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil.

The National Wildlife Federation contends that Enbridge has managed to skirt federal oversight of the expansion of the Line 6B pipeline through Michigan, the same line that ruptured in Marshall, Mich., in 2010, even though the oil is shipped across the border into Canada.

“In fact, Enbridge has continued to put forth, piece by piece, projects labeled as ‘maintenance and rehabilitation,’ when in fact, each piece is replacing a majority of the existing Line 6B line with larger pipe. Once completed, this new line will almost triple the capacity of the old one to create a system capable of shipping 33.6 million (gallons) per day, nearly as much as the contentious Keystone XL pipeline,” the report said.

Enbridge says the new pipeline is safer than the old line because it is approximately twice as thick. The company touts the economic benefits of the project, including the creation of 1,000 construction jobs in 2013, and says the expansion is needed based on projected demand from its customers.

Among other recommendations, the National Wildlife Federation report calls for implementing stronger pipeline safety standards that account for the dangers of transporting Canadian tar sands oil and ensuring a thorough review of all pipeline projects. The report calls tar sands oil “the planet’s dirtiest oil.” Environmental groups and pipeline safety advocates have raised concerns about the corrosiveness and toxicity of tar sands oil, while Enbridge says there is no difference between tar sands oil and other forms of crude. The National Academy of Sciences is studying the impact of tar sands oil on pipelines.

Manshum, the Enbridge spokesman, said that “crude oil from the oil sands region of Alberta is not more corrosive than other traditional heavy crudes,”

(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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