Enbridge fined $2.4 million for 2007 Minnesota oil spill

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators today fined Enbridge Energy Partners more than $2.4 million today, the result of a year-long investigation into a 2007 explosion near Clearbrook that killed two people.

Regulators found that Enbridge, which continues to operate at least nine oil pipelines in Minnesota, “failed to safely and adequately perform maintenance and repair activities, clear the designated work area from possible sources of ignition, and hire properly trained and qualified workers.”

Enbridge will have 20 days to pay its $2,405,000 fine from that case, as well as $58,000 in other fines assessed today for separate violations in Louisiana and Oklahoma. The $2.4 million fine had been proposed in 2008, but Enbridge appealed for a reduction. The final decision came today.

“This Department holds pipeline operators accountable for protecting their own workers as well as the health, welfare and safety of American communities where they operate,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

Enbridge has been under intense scrutiny since one of its pipelines failed July 26 near Marshall, Michigan, spilling more than a million gallons of oil (much of which ended up in the Kalamazoo River). The firm had been cited earlier this year for failing to adequately monitor corrosion on a separate section of the same pipeline that burst, a failure in which corrosion is the suspected cause.

Rep. Jim Oberstar’s House Transportation Committee, which oversees over-land oil pipeline regulations, will begin hearings into the Michigan spill in September alongside already-scheduled hearings into pipeline safety. The panel is planning legislation that Oberstar has said will dramatically toughen pipeline safety regulations.

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