Enbridge Reaches Absurd Settlement in Oil Spill Case

Enbridge Reaches Absurd Settlement in Oil Spill Case December 14, 2014

Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest and most damaging inland oil spill in the history of the county here in Michigan in 2010, has reached a ridiculously low settlement with homeowners and local residents. They’ll pay only a few million dollars to those whose lives were uprooted because of their negligence.

A four-year class action lawsuit over the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history has reached a tentative settlement, with the company responsible agreeing to pay $6.75 million to those who lived and owned property near the spill.

The lawsuit was brought by thousands of plaintiffs who claimed they were subject to toxic fumes, noise, and general degradation of life following the July 2010 oil spill, which saw more than 800,000-gallons of thick Canadian tar sands crude oil flow out of a ruptured pipeline and into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The pipeline, called Line 6B, is owned and operated by a company called Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta.

Under the agreement with Enbridge, plaintiffs who lived or owned property within 1,000 feet of the river will split a total of $2.2 million, meaning each plaintiff stands to get anywhere from a couple thousand to a couple hundred dollars depending on the size of the class. In addition, a $1.5 million fund will be set up for people who can show they made out-of-pocket expenses — stayed in hotels, bought meals, etc. — during the time the spill was at its worst. Enbridge will also be required to implement a $50,000 testing program for well water, and has agreed to donate $150,000 to local environmental conservation organizations.

The company also paid only $3.7 million in fines to the Department of Transportation. This for a company whose monitoring was so bad that they let the oil flow for nearly half a day before confirming the leak (this is largely the result of having tar sands oil flowing through the pipeline, which causes so many false pressure alarms that it’s nearly impossible to know when you have an actual leak). And that had filed MSDS sheets for conventional crude oil, not tar sands oil, which reacts entirely differently when it hits water. Thus the cleanup response focused for days on deploying boom to skim oil off the surface of the water, something that works pretty well with conventional oil but does little for the thicker tar sands oil, which sinks to the bottom quickly. And that was hiring undocumented workers for the cleanup, giving them little to no safety training, protective equipment or oversight and working them incredibly long hours for little pay (under the table, of course). This company should have been nailed hard for what they did and they barely got a slap on the wrist.

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