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Enbridge fined for fatal pipeline accident

Enbridge Energy committed eight probable violations and could pay up to $2.4 million in fines for the November 2007 fire that killed two Superior-based workers, according to an investigation filed Wednesday by the Pipeline and Hazardous Mate-rial Safety Administration.

Wednesday's ruling from the U.S. Department of Transportation is compatible with Enbridge's internal study in May, said company spokesperson Denise Hamsher. The accident on Nov. 28 killed Steve Arnovich, 35, and David Mussatti Jr., 27, at a pipeline repair site near Clearbrook, Minn., about 25 miles northwest of Bemidji. The crude oil pipeline emitted a mist of oil that was ignited by a heater.

Enbridge has 30 days to respond to the civil penalty. Hamsher wasn't immediately sure how the company would respond to the federal ruling.

The two largest of the eight violations -- $1 million each -- were related to Enbridge's training and procedures.

"Enbridge did not adequately review the work performed by its personnel to determine the effectiveness of its procedures for the installation of weld and ends fittings," the federal report said. "Interviews conducted with Enbridge personnel across its pipeline system indicated that these procedures had not been followed consistently for a number of years.

"Enbridge did not provide appropriate training related to the installation of weld and ends couplings to employees who perform this task. ... As a result, the employees ... did not have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the covered task in a manner that ensures the safe operation of the pipeline facilities."

Enbridge's investigation found a length of the exposed pipeline was insufficiently anchored, which was confirmed by the federal report.

After oil was re-injected into the pipe, a failure of the couplings that were holding the pipe together before they were welded produced an oil mist that apparently was ignited by a heater on scene to warm the workers, Enbridge said. Both views were shared in the federal report.

"A finding like this is rare and is only made in cases where there were serious lapses in safety," said Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., in a news release. "It is important to send a clear message that unsafe practices will not be tolerated."

The federal report, in conjunction with the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety, also ordered a list of compliance proceed-ings necessary for Enbridge.

"We've already implemented almost all of the measures in this notice for months," Hamsher said.