Enbridge’s Oil Spill Analysis Not Credible, Ignores Tribal Impacts, Appears Intentionally Confusing

Enbridge estimates a worst-case crude oil spill in Minnesota from its proposed Line 3 pipeline would cost about $1 billion to clean up. It’s a staggering number. What’s worse, Enbridge’s analysis is flawed, making self-serving assumptions that allow it to low-ball the costs of a catastrophic rupture.

Enbridge filed its thin, seven-page report Tuesday with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), analyzing the costs of a worst-case spill. Among its most glaring errors, Enbridge failed to recognize any of the unique impacts a major oil spill would have on Anishinaabe people. It also made favorable assumptions about Enbridge’s response time, lowering the cost estimates. Continue reading

Pushing Back on the PUC, Part III: Friends of the Headwaters Finds Gaping Holes in Enbridge’s Promises

This is the last in a series reviewing responses to Enbridge’s last-minute promises to improve its Line 3 pipeline project. The PUC adopted Enbridge’s promises with no pubic scrutiny. Previous blogs hare reviewed responses from Native tribes and state agencies. This last blog will look at the Friends of the Headwaters response.

Enbridge promised the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that it would have the financial backing to clean up a worst-case crude oil spill from its Line 3 expansion project in Minnesota. That was one of several hurried promises Enbridge made to secure needed PUC votes.

The promises might look good on paper, but there is no guarantee they will deliver results. The Friends of the Headwaters says Enbrdige’s promises lack critical details, minimize the size of catastrophic spill, and put future Minnesotans at-risk for footing the clean-up bill.

The promises “will do little to prevent an insolvent Enbridge from avoiding its [clean-up] responsibilities,” the Friends said in a legal filing to the PUC. The problem, the Friends say, is that Enbridge hasn’t even provided an estimate for what it would cost to clean up a disastrous spill — and that’s the essential first step in providing financial accountability. Continue reading

Enbridge’s “Safety” Argument to Build a New Line 3 is as Flawed as its Pipeline

Close-up of the corrosion on a section of Line 3’s exposed pipeline. (Photo by John Ratzloff)

One of the main arguments Canadian corporate giant Enbridge uses for building a new Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota is safety. The old Line 3 is pretty much a disaster waiting to happen.

Line 3 is weak Enbridge is only able to operate it at half capacity. Yet just because the old pipeline is unsafe doesn’t mean we need a new pipeline. (We don’t. See the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s media release saying Enbidge failed to make the case a new pipeline is needed.)

And just because Enbridge is making a safety argument doesn’t mean that Enbridge has made safety a top priority. (Based on past performance, it hasn’t.) Enbridge was forced into a federal Consent Decree because of its poor safety record. (More on the Consent Decree in a later post.)

Safety seems to be a useful rhetorical argument for Enbridge more than a corporate commitment.

If Enbridge was truly concerned about Line 3’s safety, it would shut it down regardless of what happens with the new Line 3 permits. It has not. It’s effectively playing a game of chicken with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC): “Allow us to build a new and larger pipeline where we want … or else we’ll keep running this dangerous one.”

This is an attempt to shift the burden of Line 3 safety onto the PUC instead of putting the responsibility where it belongs: On Enbridge itself.

The Anishinaabe of northern Minnesota are at particular risk. They have treaty protected rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands along the pipeline’s route. A major rupture would affect their sacred wild rice as well as pollute waters that all Minnesotans care about.

Continue reading

Enbridge Hit with $1.8 Million Fine for Crude Oil Pipeline Inspection Failings

Capitol rally against Line 3. File Photo

The news keeps getting worse for Enbridge, the Canadian company trying to force an unnecessary tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota.

The latest, from the Duluth News Tribune, is that the U.S. government hit Enbridge with a $1.8 million fine to settle the company’s “alleged failure to meet pipeline inspection deadlines.”

Enbridge took the rich man’s plea: “I’m not admitting I did anything wrong … but here’s my $1.8 million.”

Truth is, $1.8 million is a drop in the bucket to the multinational corporation like Enbridge. But it’s an embarrassing news story for the company trying to woo the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to grant it needed permits for a new and expanded pipeline.

The News Tribune story was short, saying simply that Enbridge’s pipeline inspections did not meet the requirements, and that lax oversight included stretches of Enbridge’s Line 2, Line 3 and Line 4 that run through Minnesota. Not a great trust-building piece of news for a company that wants to build a new pipeline through the Mississippi headwaters.

The PUC is expected to vote on Enbridge’s new Line 3 permits in June.

Last month, the administrative law judge charged with making initial recommendations to the PUC came out with a doozy of a report that had something to disappoint everyone. It rejected Enbridge’s proposed new route. The only route that made sense from a cost-benefit analysis was to take out the old Line 3 and rebuild in the same trench, she said. The idea is a non starter as the existing trench passes through reservati0n lands and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe have made it clear it would oppose that plan. And Enbridge doesn’t like the plan either, as it would incur the $1 billion-plus cost of removing the old pipeline. (It prefers to abandon the old line in the ground for someone to clean up later.)

The judge’s report went on to say that Enbridge had quietly been buying up easements so that it would have the option to abandon more of its aging pipelines and reroute them. (See: Enbridge’s Secret: It Has Easements Allowing Up to Four Crude Oil Pipelines to Cross the Mississippi Headwaters.)

Pipeline opponents have a long list of reasons to reject Enbridge Line 3: It adds $287 billion to climate change costs over 30 years; it violates treaty rights; and it risks major oil spills in some of Minnesota’s cleanest waters. On top of that, the pipeline isn’t needed, according to state Department of Commerce analysis.

It’s well known that Enbridge was responsible for the massive crude oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010. Clean-up lasted for years and totaled more than $1.2 billion by 2014, Wikipedia says. (That’s not counting the fines.)

This latest news that Enbridge isn’t on top of its current inspections program only adds to the argument that building Line 3 is a bad risk for Minnesota and should be rejected.