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.