Federal officials announced the U.S. government has reached a settlement with Enbridge Energy and several related companies, requiring the oil pipeline operators to invest $177 million in pipeline improvements and pay federal pollution fines stemming from its 2010 oil spills in Marshall, Michigan and Romeoville, Ill.
According to joint releases from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Enbridge will spend at least $110 million on a series of measures to prevent oil spills and improve its operations affecting about 2,000 miles of its pipeline system in the Great Lakes region.
The company will also pay $61 million civil penalties for Clean Water Act violations resulting from its Marshall oil spill, which discharged more than 30,000 barrels of dense and highly toxic bitumen tar sands oil into Marshall, Michigan’s Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.
The spill, which led authorities to close off the Kalamazoo River to recreational activities and other purposes for two years, is the largest oil spill ever to occur in the Midwest. More than 1.2 million gallons of oil have been recovered from the river and cleanup operations continue.
Enbridge will pay another $1 million of Clean Water Act violations for the Illinois spill, which released at least at least 6,427 barrels of oil into the environment in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville.
Much of the Clean Water Act penalties Enbridge pays will go toward reimbursing the government for past and future costs associated with the Kalamazoo River spill. Cleanup of that spill is ongoing and could continue for several years.
The agreement also requires Enbridge to take specific spill-prevention and leak-detection enhancements throughout its Great Lakes network of pipelines, which span 2,000 miles in seven states, including completely replacing about 300 miles of one of its pipelines.
Additionally, Enbridge must make major improvements in its spill preparedness and emergency response procedures, both of which were severely deficient at the time of the two Midwest oil spills and contributed to their severity.
The settlement terms require all of these changes to be overseen by an independent third-party auditor for compliance.
“My office is pleased with this settlement, which not only provides financial accountability for the environmental harm caused by the oil spill in Marshall but also puts in place significant measures to protect the people and vital natural resources of this district going forward,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr. for the Western District of Michigan. “Prevention of future pipeline leaks and immediate detection and repair of problem areas are critical when protecting health and the environment.”