The Canadian oil pipeline company responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills on record has agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine for failing to thoroughly inspect its pipelines for weaknesses as required under a 2016 agreement.
Federal officials say Enbridge, Inc., did not carry out timely and thorough inspections on one of its pipeline systems, as it had agreed to do as part of a consent decree reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice.
The 2016 settlement stemmed from a massive 2010 oil spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The spill required years and more than a billion dollars to clean up, and it highlighted the hazards of pumping heavy tar sands oil through pipelines.
More than 1 million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River near the town of Marshall when a 6-foot rupture opened in Enbridge pipeline 6B. Despite warnings of trouble, oil flowed for 17 hours before Enbridge shut down the pipeline. Ultimately, the oil pushed nearly 40 miles downriver, fouling 4,435 acres of land near the river’s banks. It triggered a massive cleanup effort that cost the company $1.2 billion and kept the river closed for nearly two years.
As part of a sweeping, $177 million settlement, Enbridge promised to look for cracks and corrosion on its Lakehead pipeline system, a nearly 2,000-mile grid of pipelines that brings oil from Canada into the United States.
In a document filed in a Michigan federal court on Tuesday, the government alleges that Enbridge failed to properly conduct six inspections.
Another gas pipeline seems set to fall–California doesn't need new fossil fuel supplies https://t.co/YjMN0aRQhM
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) May 3, 2018
County officials in northern Minnesota are worried about large-scale protests if Enbridge Energy gets approval to replace its Line 3 crude oil pipeline, and have asked regulators to find a way to force the company to cover the costs to local governments.
Susan Morris, president of the Association of Minnesota Counties, made the request in a letter filed with the state Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to decide next month whether to approve the project and, if it’s approved, what route it should take across Minnesota. The letter, sent late last month, was posted on the PUC’s electronic docket Wednesday.
“Potential county expenses related to this project cannot be anticipated or budgeted because they are out of the ordinary for counties,” Morris wrote. “These may include law enforcement costs related to site security and crowd control in the event of protests, solid waste management issues, and costs related to county emergency management.”
Construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in neighboring North Dakota drew thousands of self-described “water protector” protesters to the Standing Rock Reservation area in 2016 and 2017, resulting in sometimes-violent skirmishes with law enforcement and 761 arrests over a six-month span. Some activists have threatened a repeat in Minnesota if the Line 3 project moves forward.
Protests at construction sites near Superior, Wis., have already led to several arrests. In Minnesota, protesters have gathered at pipe storage yards and founded encampments on or near Ojibwe reservations in the northern part of the state.
This is McCarthyism by Tony Mann of the @SunSentinel. They do not value freedom of speech & along with MSNBC & CNN they don’t cover Sabal Trail Pipeline. Then they criticize environmental activists for speaking with someone else. Shameful. https://t.co/2klQk3NF7b
— Tim Canova (@Tim_Canova) May 3, 2018
Hostility appears to be growing toward those staying at the camps outside the Trans Mountain terminal on Burnaby Mountain.
The Burnaby RCMP is following up with a man after he allegedly issued death threats against occupants of the Indigenous watch house east of the tank farm in April, the NOW has learned.
The RCMP received a report April 11 about a man making derogatory comments and verbal threats toward occupants of the “watch house” – the structure built by members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation east of Trans Mountain’s property during the protest March 17 – and began investigating the allegations immediately, according to an email statement from the RCMP.
A male suspect was identified and has since issued an apology to the group. No charges are being filed.
Over the weekend, occupants of Camp Cloud also reported their structures were vandalized, with intimidating messages in black spray-paint popping up overnight Friday, telling the group to “go home,” “f*** off” and “protesters not welcome.”
#TigerSwan paramilitary security company inks partial win in ND, but judge is still weighing whether TigerSwan operated illegally in the state during protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline #DAPL and might be subject to fines. https://t.co/yRzOHIXRdF via @seattletimes
— Antonia Juhasz (@AntoniaJuhasz) May 3, 2018
The state has fined the builders of the Mariner East 2 pipeline $355,000 for pollution of streams in Lancaster County and eight other counties.
The penalty is on top of a $12.6 million fine the state Department of Environmental Protection levied against pipeline builder Sunoco Pipeline LP in February on separate violations.
The fine was announced Thursday, the same day that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted unanimously to allow the pipeline to be restarted. The pipeline has been shut down since March after sinkholes opened in Chester County adjacent to the pipeline construction.
The PUC’s Bureau of Investigation recommended restarting the pipeline, noting that it is “of the opinion that the integrity of the (existing) ME1 pipeline has not been compromised by the soil subsidence events that triggered this investigation.”
The most recent fine is for spillage of drilling fluids into wild trout streams, wetlands and streams rated as high quality.
Included were seven spills in West Cocalico Township. Drilling fluids were discharged into streams, a wetland adjacent to endangered bog turtle habitat and on the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Lacota People’s law project taking on TigerSwan security agency who illegally took on the role of law enforcers inflict huge brutality during DA pipeline protest – donate to support the taking of evidence against them https://t.co/MCrN2H5ZoS
— Charles Fraser (@UbuntuLiving) May 3, 2018
A well operated by Anadarko Minerals Inc. spilled a ” substantial” amount of oil in the central region of the Fort Peck Reservation in northeast Montana, according to local media.
An estimated 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 barrels of brine (production water) leaked from the well, the Glasgow Courier reported, citing officials with the reservation’s Office of Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Land Management.
The spill was first discovered by a farmer doing a flyover in the area. The farmer immediately notified Valley County authorities about the incident.
According to a press release received by MTN News, the spill was reported to the reservation’s Office of Environmental Protection on April 27. The exact date that the leak occurred is not yet clear. The well was shut in late December.
Fort Peck Reservation, which lies north of the Missouri River, is home to members of the Sioux and Assiniboine nations. Members adamantly oppose the proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline and its potential to endanger their water supply.
The press release states that the spill further reinforces tribal officials’ opposition to the KXL and pipeline development on or near the reservation.
— IPL (DC.MD.NoVA) (@IPLdmv) May 3, 2018
Virginia state senator filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday, claiming that federal officials are illegally blocking access to a road in the Jefferson National Forest where several people are protesting construction of a natural gas pipeline.
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), who is a lawyer, filed the suit at the federal courthouse in Roanoke after being prohibited from using the road to reach the protesters last week.
His action opens another legal front in the fight over the right to protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile project that starts in West Virginia and crosses through Virginia’s southwest mountains.
A separate set of tree sitters was in federal court in Roanoke on Tuesday, as EQT Midstream and other companies behind the pipeline argued that Theresa “Red” Terry, her daughter Theresa Minor Terry and other members of the family are illegally blocking a stretch of the planned pipeline through their land. The builders of the pipeline want a judge to hold the Terry family and their allies in contempt.
Petersen’s suit is aimed at a site on Peters Mountain in Giles County along the West Virginia line. There, a protester identified only as “Nutty” has been living suspended from a pole, or monopod, since March 27, blocking efforts to clear trees.
On April 7, the Forest Service closed a gravel access road to the public but continued to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline trucks to use it, saying it was unsafe for outsiders to be around the construction zone.
But Petersen said Wednesday that he didn’t believe that explanation. His suit argues that the purpose of the closure is to “prevent persons to reach ‘Nutty’ or bring her provisions, as she is running short of food.”
BAM! BREAKING: Greenpeace Canada activists scale and occupy the massive oil pipeline drill Kinder Morgan wants to use to blast its pipeline through the heart of Burnaby Mountain. #NotGonnaHappen #cdnpoli #bcpoli #yvr #delta #StopKM #StopPipelines #WaterIsLife pic.twitter.com/1ZphM4eAQa
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) May 3, 2018
The Roanoke County family fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to push back.
The Terry family’s counsel filed another motion in federal court Wednesday to try to halt tree cutting on Bent Mountain.
Theresa Terry, 61, who goes by the name Red, and her daughter, Minor, have been living in the trees in Roanoke County for a month. Their family owns land on Bent Mountain that the pipeline company took under eminent domain. The two are perched in different locations along the natural gas pipeline’s planned path, preventing workers from cutting down trees.
The motion states that pipeline crews were working with “apparent urgency” to cut down as many trees as possible prior to an official court ruling that may or may not be in their favor.
The family is requesting that the court maintain the “status quo” and stay all of MVP’s tree-cutting efforts in Virginia.
— StandWithRed (@StandWithRed) May 3, 2018
Environmental study of the Dakota Access oil pipeline is likely to continue into the summer as federal officials meet with American Indian tribes who have raised concerns about being left out of the process.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to meet with all four tribes by the end of the month, Justice Department attorney Matthew Marinelli said in a status report to U.S. District Judge James Boasberg that was filed Wednesday.
Boasberg is overseeing a lawsuit filed in July 2016 by the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton and Oglala Sioux tribes, who hope to shut down the $3.8 billion pipeline that began moving North Dakota oil to Illinois last summer. They fear environmental and cultural harm. Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline is safe.
Boasberg allowed oil to begin flowing last June despite lingering concerns about the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, including how a spill under the Missouri River in the Dakotas would impact tribal water supplies. He ordered more study on those topics.
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes earlier this year said they weren’t being given a meaningful role in that process, and they asked Boasberg to order that they be given more involvement.
Boasberg last month rejected the request, saying the tribes can press their argument that the study is flawed when the work is completed and presented to him.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) May 2, 2018
Nine people protesting the construction of an oil pipeline in south Louisiana were cited for trespassing Tuesday.
The Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office said it received a complaint from a local landowner that protestors were trespassing on his land.
Deputies found four vehicles parked on private property near the road, the sheriff’s office said. The protestors were mingling near heavy equipment, “causing a safety hazard for themselves and the construction workers,” authorities said.
“They were ordered to return to their vehicles and were cited for trespassing and released without incident,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
Jeff Davis Parish is one of several parishes that lies along the proposed route for the 162-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline.
Opponents have raised numerous concerns about possible environmental damage if the pipeline is constructed.
More that 100 protest Sat in Pictou, NS against #NorthernPulp's plan to construct #Pipeline to dump toxic mill sewage into #NorthumberlandStrait's pristine lobster fishing grounds.@JustinTrudeau @StephenMcNeil @cathmckenna @DLeBlancNB #nspoli #canpoli pic.twitter.com/TLVPvxue4n
— Graham Johnston (@North_Nova) April 28, 2018
In a huge victory, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Constitution Pipeline’s request to appeal a Second Circuit decision upholding New York State’s Clean Water Act certification denial of the pipeline on Monday. The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari reaffirms the clear precedent that states have the power to stop dangerous fracked gas pipelines within their borders, even after the federal government has otherwise approved the project.
The Constitution Pipeline, which is backed by subsidiaries of Williams, Cabot, and other fracking and pipeline companies, was proposed to start in Pennsylvania and run for over 120 miles to New York, disturbing dozens communities and hundreds of waterways. In New York alone, the pipeline would have harmed over 85 trout streams, 85 acres of wetlands and cleared nearly 500 acres of forest.
Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, a fracked gas pipeline cannot be built in a state unless that state issues a water quality certification for the pipeline or waives its right to do so. If a state denies water quality certification to a pipeline, it cannot be built within that state’s borders.
In 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied water quality certification to Constitution Pipeline, blocking the pipeline from being built within the state. Constitution challenged that decision in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but lost that case in 2017. (NRDC, representing a coalition of groups including itself Water Defense, Earthworks, PennEnvironment, Peconic Baykeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, filed an amicus brief in that case in support of the state’s decision.) Early this year, Constitution asked to appeal the Second Circuit decision to the Supreme Court, a request that was denied yesterday.
Top or Bottom? How do you think we should get our energy?
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) May 3, 2018
The organization representing First Nations in Ontario has joined a nationwide treaty alliance calling for a ban on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and other fossil fuel projects.
The Chiefs of Ontario, which represents 133 First Nations across the province, lent its support to the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, in a May 2 letter of support signed by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.
“The Chiefs of Ontario agree to the immediacy of building a more sustainable future so our children do not have to rely or be exposed to fossil fuels which pollute and destroy the earth, air, and waters,” Day wrote in the letter, obtained by National Observer.
The oilsands, deposits of a tar-like heavy oil mixed with clay beneath the boreal forest in Alberta and Saskatchewan, represent the third largest reserve of crude oil in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. But oilsands extraction is costly and energy-intensive, and oil producers in the region have struggled to compete in international markets.
The industry has said that new pipelines such as the Trans Mountain expansion would help support jobs and growth, opening up access to markets such as Asia. The federal and Alberta governments have said that the pipeline would be part of a transition plan needed to allow Canada to meet its climate change goals.
But opponents, including the alliance, say that Canada will never be able to meet its climate change goals unless it stops expansion of the oilsands industry.