Top Democrats Push to Hold Enbridge Responsible For Environmentally Disastrous Oil Spill
Washington, D.C. – This week, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Michael Capuano (D-MA) strongly urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess the highest possible penalty on Enbridge Incorporated for a massive 2010 oil spill that destroyed local communities, critical watersheds, and local wildlife. Nearly six years after the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, EPA has yet to issue a fine over the spill which dumped nearly one million gallons of tar sands oil in Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary.
In the letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, DeFazio and Capuano write, “Recent press reports indicated that EPA has not yet assessed a fine against Enbridge for Clean Water Act violations as a result of the spill. In fact, EPA has extended ‘negotiations’ with Enbridge over the fine, not once but twice with a final decision expected this June.”
Under the Clean Water Act, violators guilty of gross negligence are subject to a civil penalty of up to $4,300 per barrel of oil discharged, which means that Enbridge’s fines could reach more than $100 million.
DeFazio and Capuano urged DOJ and EPA to finally bring negotiations to a close and assess the highest possible penalty for the destruction and the irreparable damage cause by Enbridge’s negligence.
The full letter can be found below.
March 9, 2016
The Honorable Loretta E. Lynch
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Attorney General Lynch and Administrator McCarthy:
On July 25, 2010, a segment of a 30-inch diameter pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge Incorporated ruptured in Marshall, Michigan. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the rupture was not discovered for 17 hours. During that time, nearly one million gallons of tar sands flooded Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River and headed toward a Superfund site, which extended about 80 miles from the Morrow Lake Dam to Lake Michigan.
Local residents were evacuated from their homes, hundreds of people experienced adverse health effects, and the environment along with local wildlife was decimated. A section of the Kalamazoo River was closed to the public for a full two years while cleanup efforts continued. More than five years have passed and 80,000 gallons of tar sands remains imbedded in the water column and riverbed and along shorelines, likely unrecoverable.
The Enbridge oil spill was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) served as the on-scene federal coordinator for the spill, and the agency is well aware of the devastation it caused. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure also conducted an investigation of Enbridge’s failed actions with regard to the rupture.
Recent press reports indicate that EPA has not yet assessed a fine against Enbridge for Clean Water Act violations as a result of the spill. In fact, EPA has extended “negotiations” with Enbridge over the fine, not once but twice with a final decision expected this June.
Section 311(b)(7)(D) of the Clean Water Act provides that in any case in which a violation was the result of gross negligence, the violator shall be subject to a civil penalty of up to $4,300 per barrel of oil discharged, which means that Enbridge’s fines could reach more than $100 million.
We strongly urge you to bring these negotiations to a close and to assess Enbridge the highest possible penalty available under the Clean Water Act for the destruction that was caused. The people of Marshall, Michigan are still suffering, and Enbridge should be held accountable for its conduct.
Thank you for your consideration.
PETER DeFAZIO MICHAEL E. CAPUANO
Ranking Member Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Railroads,
Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials