Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Detroit Free Press got PHMSA’s records for Enbridge Line 6B

DETROIT, Mich. - In an article entitled “It's hard to evaluate how good a job pipeline regulators do” in the Sept. 26 Detroit Free Press, Tina Lamm discusses the difficulty in getting federal records on pipeline inspections – and, once you get them, how difficult it is to tell whether or not the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is doing an adequate job.
Michigan relies on federal regulators to oversee state oil pipelines.

The article notes that basic descriptions of significant pipeline accidents and enforcement actions against companies are available on the PHMSA Web site at

But the key to preventing accidents is inspections - and those records are only available by request.

After a five-week wait, the Free Press got 2,000 pages of PHMSA's inspection records on Enbridge Energy Partners' pipelines under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but it had still not gotten inspection records it requested for other companies in Michigan.

The Enbridge records showed spills on pipelines where the company had tested and found flaws, but determined no repairs were needed.

Lamm’s story notes that Jeff Alexander of Muskegon has spent five months trying to get oil and gas pipeline inspection records for four northern Michigan counties from state and federal regulators, on behalf of Anglers of the Au Sable. The 700-member group has been concerned about the safety of Enbridge's Line 5, which carries more oil per day than Line 6B near Marshall, which ruptured in July.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Georgia responders hold debriefing on fatal Dixie Pipeline accident

THOMSON, Ga. - Firefighters, emergency medical personnel and law enforcement officers met with representatives of Dixie Pipeline Company at the Thomson Depot on Sept. 15 to discuss the lessons learned in a fatal pipeline accident.

The propane pipeline explosion killed 23-year-old Jason McCorkle. The explosion occurred near Belle Meade subdivision outside of Thomson. Earlier that morning, McCorkle's father, Paul McCorkle, a county commissioner, was operating a bulldozer and accidentally ruptured the pipeline while doing road work on McCorkle Farm.
The responders discussed the overall response, how it was handled and whether anything could be improved if a similar accident were to ever take place here again.
Paul McCorkle, whose son died, attended the meeting representing the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners.
The single biggest issue discussed involved making sure that before anyone digs that they call the Georgia 811 number.
"It's the law," said Michael McLaughlin, coordinator and public awareness/damage prevention representative with EPCO, Inc.
Paul McCorkle had not called that telephone number.
"We're here to get your feedback," said Jesse Gregoire, manager of regional safety for Dixie Pipeline Company. "I want this to be an interactive meeting. We want to see if there is anything we can do differently, if another accident happens around here."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Enbridge restarts Michigan oil pipeline in stages

LANSING, Mich. - After a two-month shutdown, oil began flowing again on Sept. 27 through Enbridge Line 6B.

The line has been shut since late July after spilling an estimated 19,500 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River watershed.

In a short statement, Enbridge Inc. confirmed the gradual restart of the pipeline running between Griffith, Ind., and Sarnia, Ontario.

The company reported a massive oil leak in Marshall, Mich., on July 26.

Enbridge said the restart is a "staged process" run in accordance with a restart plan approved by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Sept. 27 was the earliest a gradual return to service was permitted by federal regulators.

The pipeline was being restarted at lower pressure. An independent third party that reports to federal regulators will help monitor the restart.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a statement saying it also was keeping tabs on Enbridge during the restart and had staff located throughout the pipeline system to oversee it.

Enbridge will have to make multiple repairs on the pipeline within 180 days, and it will have one year to replace a section of dented pipe running under the St. Clair River in southeast Michigan.

In August, Enbridge estimated cleanup and other costs from the spill could be $300 million to $400 million. The charges include the emergency response, cleanup, repairs, claims by third parties, lost revenue and other items. It excludes possible fines and penalties. Insurance is expected to cover most of the cost.

More than 1,500 oil-damaged birds and animals have been rescued from the spill site. More than 1,300 turtles, more than 100 Canada geese and several muskrats, swans, herons, snakes and frogs have been rehabilitated and released.

Note to subscribers: If you would like a copy of the 20-page Enbridge restart proposal to PHMSA, email ngriese@

Monday, September 27, 2010

North Dakota PSC gives Bridger OK for 77-mile oil pipeline

BISMARCK, N.D. - Construction will begin during the first week in October on a 77-mile crude oil pipeline project spanning McKenzie, Dunn and Billings counties after the state’s Public Service Commission gave the final OK during a meeting on Sept. 22.

Bridger Pipeline, LLC received the approval from the PSC to construct Four Bears Pipeline, a 12-inch thick steel pipeline system capable of handling 60,000 b/d with the possibility of moving to 110,000 b/d.

The pipeline would begin about 15 miles west of the Four Bears Bridge in McKenzie County, just north of state Highway 23, according to PSC documents.

The pipeline’s southern end would then connect into Bridger’s existing Heart River Pipeline at Skunk Hill Junction located about 18 miles northwest of Dickinson.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Regulators OK Enbridge Line 6B restart, order anomalies fixed

- More repairs will be required as part of a deal that will permit Enbridge Energy Partners LP to restart Line 6B, which ruptured and spilled an estimated 19,500 barrels of Canadian synbit (upgraded bitumen) into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River watershed in July.

The Office of Pipeline Safety of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration notified Enbridge on Sept. 22 that its was approving the latest restart plan for the pipeline, which runs from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

Federal regulators said in a letter to the company that they want dozens of pipeline anomalies fixed within 180 days of a restart. A dented pipeline that runs beneath the St. Clair River would have to be replaced within one year of a restart.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Michigan released the letter of approval on Sept. 20, before the letter was received by Enbridge.

More about the restart and fixes in future articles.

Meanwhile, we have a copy of Enbridge’s restart plan. If you are a subscriber and would like a copy of the 20-page restart plan that Enbridge filed with PHMSA, email