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Enbridge Clean Water Act Settlement

(Washington, DC - July 20, 2016)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice today announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership and several related Enbridge companies to resolve claims stemming from its 2010 oil spills in Marshall, Mich. and Romeoville, Ill. Enbridge has agreed to spend 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. Enbridge will also pay civil penalties totaling $62 million for Clean Water Act violations -- $61 million for discharging at least 20,082 barrels of oil in Marshall and $1 million for discharging at least 6,427 barrels of oil in Romeoville. 

On January 19, 2017, the United States filed a motion to enter as a final judgment a revised consent decree. Following the public comment period, the parties agreed to make four changes to the proposed consent decree. One change clarifies that replacement of a pipeline, known as “Original US Line 3,” is conditioned on Enbridge obtaining all permits and authorizations needed for the replacement project, which was always the intended effect of the consent decree. Another change bars re-use of Original US Line 3 in the event that the replacement projected is approved and completed. Finally, there are two technical corrections to appendices to the proposed consent decree.

For more information on the revised consent decree and incorporating the changes outlined above.

On this page:

Overview of Company

The Enbridge companies who are defendants in this case own or operate the Enbridge Mainline System – one of the world’s largest pipeline systems with more than 3,000 miles of pipeline corridors in the United States and Canada.  Enbridge’s Mainline System is the single largest conduit of liquid petroleum into the United States, delivering on-average 1.7 million barrels of products each day. The portion of the Mainline System within the United States is known as the Lakehead Pipeline System (Lakehead System) and includes a network of pipelines that are grouped within right-of-ways that collectively span 1,900 miles from the international border near Neche, North Dakota to delivery points in the Midwest, New York, and Ontario. 

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On or about July 25, 2010, at least 20,082 barrels (843,444 gallons) of oil discharged from Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline in Marshall Michigan. Oil entered Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River and adjoining shorelines, in a quantity as may be harmful. The discharge was the result of a pipeline rupture due to stress corrosion cracking downstream from a pump station and control room errors when personnel misinterpreted leak alarms and restarted the pipeline without confirming whether there was a pipeline failure.

On or about September 9, 2010, at least 6,427 barrels (269,934 gallons) of oil discharged from Enbridge’s Line 6A pipeline near Romeoville, Illinois. Oil entered an unnamed tributary to the Des Plaines River and adjoining shorelines in a quantity as may be harmful. Enbridge contends that this spill happened when a third-party water pipe in the right of way failed, causing a water spout that damaged the Enbridge pipeline. 

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Injunctive Relief

The injunctive relief applies to Enbridge’s Lakehead System - 14 pipelines in the United States that span 1900 miles in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York. Enbridge shall take the actions in the following categories pursuant to the consent decree to prevent and minimize future spills from Lakehead System pipelines:

  • Implement an in-line inspection spill prevention program
  • Implement additional measures to prevent spills in the Straits of Mackinac
  • Implement improvements to leak detection and control room operations
  • Maintain databases that integrate data from in-line inspections and link to pipeline information
  • Enjoined from using old Line 6B, replace Line 3 after obtaining required approvals, and evaluate replacement of Line 10
  • Improve spill response and preparedness and improve coordination with government planners
  • Hire an independent third party to assist with consent decree compliance verification
  • Submit semi-annual status reports 

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Pollutant Impacts

As a result of the Marshall discharges, at least 20,082 barrels (843,444 gallons) of oil entered the environment. The Kalamazoo River was closed in places over a three-year period while Enbridge engaged in an extensive cleanup effort in accordance with a series of orders issued by EPA under Section 311(c) of CWA, 33 U.S.C. § 1321(c), starting with an initial order issued on July 26, 2010. Such cleanup efforts included, among other things, dredging sections of the Kalamazoo River downstream as far as 38 miles from the confluence of Talmadge Creek.

As a result of the Romeoville discharge, at least 6,427 barrels (269,934 gallons) of oil entered the environment. The oil entered a storm drain and an unnamed tributary that flows to the Des Plaines River and into a sanitary sewer system forcing the shutdown of the Village of Romeoville South Water Treatment Plant.

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Health and Environmental Effects

The injunctive relief required by the settlement to improve Enbridge’s spill prevention, leak detection, data integration, and oil spill preparedness and response are designed both to prevent the likelihood of a future oil spill, and to minimize the adverse effects of a spill if it should happen.

Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems. Oil limits oxygen in water and can suffocate wildlife. Oil emulsions may stick to the gills of fish or coat and destroy algae or other plankton. Floating oil may reduce water exposure to the circulation of oxygen and, in conjunction with emulsified oil, interfere with photosynthesis. Oil slicks can kill birds, contaminate food sources, reduce animal and plant reproduction and contaminate nesting habitats. Oil spills can cause long-term effects years later even if the oil remains in the environment for a relatively short period of time. Petroleum oils can also undergo oxidation and polymerization reactions and can form tars that persist in the environment for years.

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Civil Penalty

Enbridge paid a civil penalty of $61 million for the Marshall spill and $1 million for the Romeoville spill. 

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For More Information, Contact:

Cheryl Rose
Senior Attorney
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Civil Enforcement
Water Enforcement Division (2243-A)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-4136

John (Matthew) Moore
Assistant Regional Counsel
U.S. EPA, Region 5
Office of Regional Counsel (C-14J)
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL  60604
(312) 353-5624

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