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.

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