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Enbridge fined $1.9 million for inspection woes on Line 5, other pipelines

Enbridge Energy has agreed to pay the federal government $1.9 million to settle claims it didn't properly inspect some of its pipelines, including Line 5.

The fine stemmed from a consent decree following an Enbridge pipeline oil spill in the Kalamazoo River nearly eight years ago. The federal government alleged the mammoth Canadian company violated parts of that deal, according to a Wednesday filing in federal court .

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice alleged six violations of requirements that Enbridge perform timely inspections of its pipelines. Two concerned the 645-mile Line 5 — a section from Bay City and Sarnia, Ontario, and another between Iron River and Superior, Wisconsin.

Enbridge admitted no wrongdoing.

“All of the inspections pertaining to the settlement have been completed, and no safety concerns were at issue,” Matt Barnes, an Enbridge spokesman, said in a statement.

“To ensure focus on safe operation of the pipelines and to maintaining our commitments under the Consent Decree, we have agreed to pay a penalty to resolve the matter. We have reached agreement on the inspection schedule going forward.”

Barnes said the company’s inspections still complied with federal regulations.

James Clift, policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council, said he’s troubled by the revelations.

“The fine is inadequate,” he said. “State and federal officials should be basically sending a message that we are extremely serious about (Enbridge) changing the nature of their business practices and about taking protection of water resources seriously.”

That 65-year-old Line 5 has become a hot-button political issue amid fears that a rupture would threaten the Great Lakes and allegations that Enbridge has not been transparent about the pipeline’s condition.

The filling came in a case related to a different Enbridge pipeline: Line 6B, which ruptured in 2010, triggering one of the worst inland oil spills in U.S. history.

More than 1.2 million gallons of crude oil was spilled, requiring a four-year river cleanup. Enbridge has paid nearly $1.3 billion for cleanup and restoration.

In 2017, a judge approved an agreement in which Enbridge agreed to pay $177 million in civil penalties to settle claims related to that spill and one in Illinois. That agreement included various provisions aimed at boosting safety, including the inspection requirements at issue.

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