Share | | More

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Obama administration repeatedly warned Enbridge prior to spill

Heading out on a paddle towards Robson Bight (which recently had its own brush with spilled hydrocarbons) in just a few moments, but before I leave I want to share a new bit of information about Enbridge's most recent oil spill: the Detroit Free Press reports that the Obama administration "repeatedly warned" Enbridge about the pipeline in question, and even summoned its officials to Washington earlier in the year to a meeting on "a series of major failures." The Free Press goes on to quote a federal official as saying that Enbridge was warned "in no uncertain terms that it needed to get its act together".

So there you have it. Make what you will of it, but methinks that if the U.S. federal government can't get Enbridge to fly straight, the "little people" (in BP-speak) in B.C. won't stand much of a chance of having their voices heard if Enbridge's Northern Gateway project is ever put in place.


  1. Perhaps this is a prime example of how the fines system is too weak. While I'm not sure of the extent of the B.C. fines, I know the fines for standards violations in the U.S. is not significant enough to create any change. For these companies, often the fines are cheaper to pay than the repair costs to maintain their infrastructure. Remember, companies are motivated by money, if governments want to have any teeth with these companies, they need to make their fines a REAL punishment.

  2. Aye, Michelle. We have some very recent experience with just that problem - the company that was found guilty for the spill that polluted the nearby and world-famous Robson Bight Ecological Reserve was just handed a token &75,000 fine. This, while the cost of the cleanup was roughly $2.5 million. Of course, since the company went bankrupt after the accident, even the $75,000 fine was merely symbolic.

    But back to your point: while I am also no expert on the fines system for oil companies in Canada, a quick look at an excellent piece at The Tyee shows that Enbridge has, in the past, been fined: $2 million for violations associated with an explosion that killed two people, $1 million for more than 500 (!!!) violations of Wisconsin state environmental regulations, and $100,000 for not following safety standards during a spill of 176,000 gallons, also in Wisconsin (these are just a few selected examples of some of the fines that the company has received). It does not seem possible that those kinds of fines, spread out as they are over several years, can be a deterrent for a company that just reported nearly $140 million in profits for the second quarter.

    Robson Bight fine:

    Tyee article:

    Enbridge profits: