Home / Environment / Feds block pipeline reopening after Wis. spill (UPDATE)

Feds block pipeline reopening after Wis. spill (UPDATE)

Workers excavate the site of an oil spill in Madison recently. Federal transportation officials have ordered a Houston-based energy transportation company not to reopen a pipeline after it ruptured and leaked oil into a Wisconsin field. (AP Photo/Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – An energy transportation company can’t reopen a pipeline that spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil in Wisconsin last week until it hands federal officials a re-start plan.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced Tuesday it has blocked Houston-based Enbridge Energy Partners from reopening the 427-mile line.

Administration officials must approve a re-start plan that establishes leak patrols and details coordination with local emergency workers before the company can resume operations.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that he plans to meet with company officials soon. They’ll have to convince him why the pipeline should continue to operate without an overhaul or complete replacement, he said.

“Pipelines operate safely across the country every single day,” LaHood said. “That’s why accidents, like the one in Wisconsin, are absolutely unacceptable.”

Enbridge officials didn’t immediately respond to telephone and email messages Tuesday.

The pipeline carries crude oil from Superior to Chicago-area refineries. It ruptured Friday, spilling about 1,200 barrels, or about 50,400 gallons, of crude into field just east of Grand Marsh in Adams County. The cause of the spill is still unknown.

Enbridge officials said the spill was quickly contained and no one was hurt, although the pipeline safety administration said two homes were evacuated and several cattle and horses required medical attention. State environmental officials didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday seeking a damage update.

The pipeline safety administration issued a nine-page order requiring Enbridge to submit the re-start plan. The order also calls for additional corrective measures, saying the line crosses multiple rivers, highways and population centers.

The requirements include completing an analysis of the failed pipe; contracting with an independent operator to evaluate the company’s procedures, maintenance history and repair decisions; submitting a plan for long-term testing on the line; and submitting monthly reports on testing and repairs.

The order also questioned the company’s pipeline integrity program, noting tests performed during the pipeline’s construction in 1998 revealed defects in seams in multiple locations and that the pipeline ruptured in January 2007, spilling 63,000 gallons of crude in Clark County.

Another Enbridge pipeline ruptured in July 2010, spilling more than 840,000 gallons of crude near Marshall, Mich.

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