Federal ban lifted, Enbridge reopening oil pipeline Tuesday after 1,200-barrel spill
Post by Christie Taylor on 8/7/2012 4:30pm
Enbridge Energy began to reopen its pipeline Tuesday after getting federal permission to do so the day before, more than a week after the July 27 leak near Grand Marsh, Wisconsin that spilled 1,200 barrels (more than 50,000 gallons) of light crude into a surrounding field.
The pipeline, Line 14, carries about 318,000 barrels of oil through Wisconsin per day, and is part of the company’s 1,900-mile Lakehead System, carrying oil from Canada to Chicago-area refineries. The pipeline shutdown is partially to blame for spikes in gas prices in Wisconsin and surrounding states.
Enbridge shut down the pipeline within minutes of the leak’s detection and repaired the pipe within five days, but the Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Hazardous Substances Administration (PHSA) blocked its restart, calling the spill “unacceptable.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said at the time that Enbridge would have to demonstrate “why they should be allowed to continue to operate this Wisconsin pipeline without either a significant overhaul or a complete replacement.” The company was required to perform additional testing on the line, submit a safety plan for the entire Lakehead System to the department, and hire a third-party pipeline expert to review the plan and oversee its implementation.
In a statement Monday, Enbridge said its plan was submitted and approved, and that they would begin to reopen the pipeline the next day. Reuters News Service reports also that LaHood will hold weekly meetings with the PHSA to ensure Enbridge was complying with the terms of the restart agreement.
The spill is the worst for Enbridge since a 2010 disaster that dumped more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. As recently as July 10, the National Transportation and Safety Board released its report on the investigation into that spill, sharply condemning the company for lax adherence to safety standards and poor handling of the pipeline rupture, which went 17 hours before it was reported. Enbridge was fined $3.7 million, and NTSB chair Debbie Hersman was quoted as comparing the company’s actions to the Keystone Kops.
July’s spill is not Enbridge’s first major incident in Wisconsin, either. In 2007, two spills in January and February--during the construction of a pipeline running parallel to the one that ruptured Friday--released about 176,000 gallons of crude oil onto farmland and roadway in Clark and Rusk counties. In the second spill, in which construction crews mistakenly struck the existing pipeline, oil that could not be removed seeped into the water table. At that time, it was one of the largest spills in state history.
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at email@example.com.