January 23, 2019  
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EXCLUSIVE: Is Maine ready for a major oil spill?
EXCLUSIVE: Is Maine ready for a major oil spill?
The biggest oil pipeline company in North America, and the major owner of the largest pipeline in Maine, is in trouble again.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency filed a document in federal court in Michigan that alleges Enbridge Energy and its affiliates failed to properly conduct inspections required by a consent decree that was supposed to settle one of the largest inland oil spills on record.[1]

Inside Climate News reports that Enbridge, a Canadian multinational energy company based in Calgary, has agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine for failing to thoroughly inspect its pipelines for weaknesses as required under a 2016 agreement.[2]

Enbridge has a long history of spills. Based on data from Enbridge's own reports, the Polaris Institute calculated that more than 800 spills occurred on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010. Those spills released more than 160,000 barrels of crude oil into the environment.[3] Since then Enbridge has been responsible for numerous other spills.

One of the worst oil spills occurred in 2010 when more than a million gallons of tar sands spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan after a six-foot gash opened in an Enbridge pipeline. Oil flowed for seventeen hours before Enbridge shut down the pipeline. The oil spread nearly 40 miles downriver triggering a massive cleanup effort that cost the company $1.2 billion and kept the river off limits for nearly two years.[4]

Today, Enbridge is bigger than ever. It controls a network of pipelines across the continent stretching from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to southern Florida.[5]

Enbridge is a big player in Maine too. It was a minor partner in the 889-mile long Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, which extends from Nova Scotia through Maine to Massachusetts. However, in 2017, Enbridge acquired Spectra Energy in a $28 billion all-stock deal[6], making Enbridge the majority owner of the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, which extends from Nova Scotia through Maine to Massachusetts.[7]

In addition, the Portland Montreal Pipe Line transports crude oil from Portland to Enbridge’s terminal in Montreal.[8] But there has been talk of reversing the flow, sending crude oil from Canada to Portland.[9]

Few Mainers probably have heard of Enbridge, but with such a spotty record of compliance with environmental safeguards and a long rap sheet of spills, Maine ought to be closely monitoring the company’s hundreds of miles of pipeline through the state.
[1] United States of America v. Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership, et al, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4451281-Enbridge-May-2018.html

[2] David Hasemyer, Enbridge Fined for Failing to Fully Inspect Pipelines After Kalamazoo Oil Spill, Inside Climate News, May 3, 2018, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03052018/enbridge-fined-tar-sands-oil-pipeline-inspections-kalamazoo-michigan-dilbit-spill

[3] Richard Girard, Out on the Tar Sands Mainline, Polaris Institute, May 2010, https://web.archive.org/web/20111119222821/http://www.tarsandswatch.org/files/Updated%20Enbridge%20Profile.pdf

[4] Wikipedia, Enbridge, Spills and violations, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enbridge

[5] Enbridge website, Infrastructure Map, http://www.enbridge.com/map#map:infrastructure

[6] Wikipedia, Spectra Energy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectra_Energy

[7] Spectra Energy Partners, Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, http://www.spectraenergypartners.com/operations/natural-gas-

[8] Canada’s Pipeline Transportation System, https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/trnsprttn/2016/grp2cmpns/lndlqds/mntrl-pp-ln-lmtd-mntrl-pp-ln-eng.html

[9] Susan Sharon, Maine city continues legal fight to keep Canadian crude oil out of its harbor, Maine Public, November 22, 2017, https://bangordailynews.com/2017/11/22/news/state/maine-city-continues-legal-fight-to-keep-canadian-crude-oil-out-of-its-harbor/

Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2018 (Archive on Thursday, May 24, 2018)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre

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