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Feds propose $3.7M penalty for Mich. oil spill

July 3, 2012

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Federal regulators proposed a $3.7 million civil penalty Monday against the Canadian owner of a pipeline that ruptured in 2010, dumping more than 800 million gallons of oil into a southwestern Michigan river.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the penalty against Enbridge Inc. would be the largest it has imposed. The agency also said it was recommending 24 enforcement actions against the company, based in Calgary, Alberta.

"We will hold pipeline operators accountable if they do not follow proper safety procedures to protect the environment and local communities," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

Article Photos

James Rutherford, director of the Calhoun County Public Health, shows the condition of the Kalamazoo River during a news conference at the Fort Custer Recreation boat launch in Battle Creek, Mich., Thursday. Nearly all of the river is being reopened for recreational use and the cleanup of a massive oil spill nearly two years ago is in its final stages, federal, state and local officials announced Thursday.

A 30-inch pipeline extending from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, ruptured July 25, 2010 in Calhoun County, about 60 miles southeast of Grand Rapids. Investigators found numerous violations of hazardous liquid pipeline safety regulations, including failure to follow procedures and operator qualification requirements, PHMSA said.

The rupture happened during a scheduled shutdown, the agency said.

"Despite control center alarms, there were several attempts to restart the line, resulting in more pressure that expelled more oil," it said in a news release.

More than 20,000 barrels had spilled by the time a local natural gas company employee informed Enbridge's control center about the spill the next day.

Enbridge has 30 days to respond. It could accept the agency's findings and pay the penalty or request a hearing before an administrative judge.

The agency is expected soon to issue a report on what caused the pipeline break.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



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