Enbridge’s sloppy Michigan spill response shows oil sands’ ugly side – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – July 10, 2012)posted in Canadian/International Media Resource Articles, Oil and Gas Sector-Politics and Image |
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CALGARY — How does Enbridge Inc. maintain trust in its oil pipelines — existing and proposed — in the face of its embarrassing handling of a major oil spill in Michigan two years ago?
While the pipeline giant patted itself on the back for its response, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) came to a much different conclusion on Tuesday.
Its extensive investigation into the spill from Line 6B — the largest and costliest in the U.S. onshore — put the blame squarely on the Canadian company for the disaster, citing a failure to fix known and growing cracks in the 50-year-old pipeline due to corrosion, inadequate training of personnel, deficient integrity-management procedures, and an oil spill response plan that wasn’t good enough for a major incident.
Investigators, who provided a rare picture of the organization’s behavior, found lack of communication between different parts of the company, employees who were reluctant to report errors out of fear of getting fired, first respondents who failed to respond, and a lack of learning from previous incidents.
Indeed, Enbridge, the largest transporter of crude from Western Canada to the U.S., seemed to be asleep at the switch when the rupture occurred. It took it more than 17 hours to gear up to respond to the July 25, 2010, incident.
Meanwhile, 20,082 barrels of oil gushed into Talmadge Creek and eventually the Kalamazoo River. Almost 4,000 animals were affected and 320 people reported symptoms consistent with crude-oil exposure. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and related costs have exceeded $767-million.
Enbridge’s response was so poor NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman likened it to the behavior of the “Keystone Kops” — referring to the incompetent policemen in silent film comedies of the early 20th Century.
“This accident was the result of multiple mistakes and missteps by Enbridge,” she said in concluding the investigation. She urged the sector to pursue safety with the same rigour it pursues profit.
The board made multiple recommendations to avoid similar incidents in the future: they included tougher regulations, better training and better safety response procedures.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/07/10/enbridges-sloppy-michigan-spill-response-shows-oil-sands-ugly-side/