Great blue heron covered in oil from the 2010 Enbridge oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.
Michigan's oil response Flickr page / State of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has closed its pollution case against the owner of a pipeline that ruptured in 2010, spewing oil into the Kalamazoo River.

Federal regulators say Enbridge paid a $3.7 million fine to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) last month.

The company is responsible for the largest inland, freshwater oil spill in U.S. history.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Sikkema says renewable energy mandate would drive up energy costs

"The campaigns for and against Proposal 3 on the November ballot are debating the cost of renewable fuels versus coal and gas. Proposal 3 would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity be generated using wind, the sun, or bio-fuels by 2025. Ken Sikkema compared the costs of renewable generation to the costs of using coal or natural gas. He found renewable energy will be more expensive. The campaign FOR Proposal 3 says the ballot question would help stabilize energy costs, because the cost of wind and solar energy is not as volatile as fossil fuels," Rick Pluta reports.

Lawmakers to look at legal aid for poor defendants

A hearing will take place this week to set standards for public defenders in Michigan who work with low-income people. "Michigan's public defender system is consistently rated one of the worst in the country. Michigan has no statewide training requirements for public defenders, and many public defenders say they have to take on too many cases to make a living. But they could be created soon. Lawmakers will take the first step this week. They'll hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would create a new commission to set those standards," Sarah Hulett reports.

Enbridge has paid a $3.7 million fine

"Federal regulators say the Canadian owner of a pipeline that ruptured in 2010 and dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a southwestern Michigan river has paid a $3.7 million fine. Enbridge Inc. owns a pipeline running from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline burst near Marshall, Mich., spewing oil into the Kalamazoo River system. The federal agency says the penalty against Enbridge is the largest it has imposed. It cited Enbridge for 24 violations of hazardous liquid pipeline regulations, including failure to fix corrosion discovered as far back as 2004. It also says Enbridge failed to detect the rupture for 17 hours," the AP reports

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As Labor Day Weekend approaches, Michiganders are seeing higher gas prices.
The current national gas price hovers around $3.75 for a gallon regular fuel, while Michigan's average gas price is almost $3.93 a gallon, making it the ninth priciest state for refueling. In a press release, the American Automobile Association reports that Michigan is the state with the fifth highest year-over-year gasoline price jump. 

Logan Chadde / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy plans to build a bigger oil pipeline across the state. The company says, not only will it be bigger and move more oil. They say it will also be safer than the line that broke in 2010.

The Michigan Public Service Commission approved the first phase of the project last May, but some landowners have sued. They say they weren’t properly notified that the construction work could force them to give up more land. And that Enbridge could remove more trees.

There’s going to be a meeting tonight in the normally sleepy community of Brandon Township, in rural northern Oakland County not that far from Flint. Except that this session is likely to be different.

You can expect it to be crowded, and explosive.

Two years ago, a pipeline belonging to an Alberta-based company called Enbridge ruptured near the picturesque town of Marshall, sending more than eight hundred thousand gallons of crude, thick, tar sands oil into a creek leading to the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest inland oil spill in the history of the Midwest.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Boost for Detroit neighborhoods, schools

Governor Snyder was in Detroit yesterday to kick off an intensive neighborhood stabilization effort. It will focus on 3 neighborhoods, anchored by 9 Detroit schools.  Sarah Cwiek reports:

The effort kicked off outside Clark Preparatory Academy in Detroit’s Morningside neighborhood, on the city’s east side. Morningside is one of three communities that will get state help to demolish the abandoned homes dotting the neighborhood, and clean up the area. Lansing also plans to send in some state police patrols, and will put social workers in the neighborhood schools.

Governor Snyder says Detroit must strengthen its neighborhoods if the city is to truly come back.

“That’s the goal. We’re doing this because we believe it will work, and we want to get good experience and do continuous improvement, and then continue to ramp up the program.”

The state is putting $10 million into the effort so far, and Snyder says more could become available. City officials say the state helps supplement existing blight eradication programs.

 Republican Senate candidates hold primary season debate

Three Republicans running for their party’s U.S. Senate nomination appeared together yesterday in their only televised debate of this primary season. Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, charter school executive Clark Durant, and former judge Randy Hekman are running. Rick Pluta reports:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Gasoline prices in parts of Michigan are soaring over $4 a gallon.

The recent leak that shutdown an oil pipeline in Wisconsin is getting much of the blame. The Enbridge Energy pipeline has been shut down since it sprung a leak last week.

Toban Black / Flickr

Enbridge Energy is facing new questions from federal regulators. 

Those questions come after another one of the company’s pipelines in Wisconsin sprung a leak.

State of Michigan / EPA

Two years ago today, the EPA estimates Enbridge Energy's busted pipeline led to an oil spill of more than 1 million gallons into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

We've been covering the spill and it's cleanup since it first happened. You can follow the links below for a chronological compilation of Michigan Radio's coverage of the incident and its fallout.


user Kyle1278 / Wikimedia Commons

It's been two years since a busted pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan Radio's  Zoe Clark sat down with reporter Steve Carmody who has covered the spill since July 2010 and spoke about the efforts to clean up with river and how its faring two years on.


This Wednesday marks the second anniversary of the Kalamazoo River oil spill.

A national environmental group is releasing a report today attacking the company whose pipeline broke.

Federal regulators this week blasted Enbridge Energy for its handling of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.     But the highly critical federal report is unlikely to affect a state review of Enbridge’s plans for a new oil pipeline through Michigan.  


The National Transportation Safety Board is not pulling its punches against Enbridge Energy in a highly critical report of the company’s handling of the July, 2010 oil spill near Marshall.


Federal regulators will release a report tomorrow on the reasons why an oil pipeline broke near Marshall.

Environmentalists want to see if problems with federal oversight of the pipeline industry will be cited in the report.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Republican Congressman Fred Upton and his primary challenger Jack Hoogendyk talked mostly about health care the federal deficit and energy issues during a debate Tuesday afternoon. The two Republicans debated for an hour on WKZO.

Their talking points were about the same but Hoogendyk says he’s more conservative than Upton, who’s been in Congress 25 years now.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Enbridge may face record penalty for 2010 spill

Enbridge Energy is responsible for the pipeline rupture that spilled more than 843,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek near Marshall, MI.  EPA estimates that number is more than 1 million gallons.  Steve Carmody reports the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration  (PHMSA) has spent the past few years reviewing the events that led up to the oil spill.  

PHMSA’s investigation found multiple violations of its hazardous liquid pipeline safety regulations related to integrity management, failure to follow operations and maintenance procedures, and reporting and operator qualification requirements. PHMSA issued its notice and proposed civil penalty to Enbridge in a Notice of Probable Violation. The agency is proposing a fine for Enbridge of $3.7 million, which would be a record civil penalty. Enbridge has said the company expects to spend $700 million cleaning up the spill.

Michigan to receive $23.8 million from settlement of drug marketing case

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state is in line to get $23.8 million as part of a $3 billion settlement of an improper drug marketing case against GlaxoSmithKline LLC, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that the British pharmaceutical giant agreed to the payment and is pleading guilty to promoting two popular drugs for unapproved uses. The federal government says the company also admits failing to disclose important safety information on a third drug. Michigan was among states that sued the company. Schuette says GlaxoSmithKline underpaid the rebates in owed for drugs paid through Michigan's Medicaid program. The Justice Department says the $3 billion combined criminal-civil fine will be the largest penalty ever paid by a drug company.

June auto sales 

Analysts say U.S. auto sales continued to buck the otherwise poor economic news in June. Tracy Samilton reports:

Larry Dominique of True Car Dot Com says June car sales should be up about 18% from last June.    That's a pretty healthy increase given worries about the recession in Europe and the barely moving unemployment numbers in the U.S. 

Dominique says he will be interested to see what kind of cars people bought toward the end of June -- when gas prices went down noticeably. 

"Typical of Americans we tend to have short memories, so as fuel prices go down we tend to go towards larger displacements and trucks."

Dominique says Honda and Toyota had especially good sales in June.  He says the two companies have largely recovered from the tsunami last spring.


Enbridge Energy may have to pay a record federal fine for the July 2010 oil spill near Marshall.

But the proposed fine is well below the expected cost of the nearly two-year-long cleanup.

Working on the broken oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan

Enbridge Energy is planning to replace an old pipeline that runs through Michigan.

It’s called Line 6B. That’s the same line that broke in Marshall nearly two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. 

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline.   

Joe Martucci is a spokesperson for Enbridge. He says the new pipeline will cut down on the number of repairs they’ll have to make.

"The purpose and need of it is integrity driven and also to increase the capacity of the line at the same time."

After the Marshall spill, Enbridge was ordered to reduce the pressure in Line 6B.  That means there’s a lot less oil flowing through that pipeline now than there was before the spill.

Martucci says the new pipeline will allow Enbridge to double the amount of oil they can transport, up to 500,000 barrels per day.  There is the potential for the pipeline to move as much as 800,000 barrels per day. But Joe Martucci says they would have to add more equipment to do so, and file a new application with the state of Michigan.

He says oil from Alberta’s tar sands region will be the main product in their new pipeline. 

"The refiners and others are telling us they want more access to this oil and you know, it’s our job to try and provide them with a transportation capacity that makes that available."

Some landowners and environmental groups are worried about the idea of more tar sands oil moving through the Great Lakes region.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, dozens of people in Marshall had a chance to look at plans for a new oil pipeline that would run through their mid-Michigan community.

The new pipeline would replace an older one that ruptured two years ago, resulting in a massive oil spill.

city of Marshall

Enbridge Energy officials will to meet tonight with people in Marshall to lay out their plans for a new oil pipeline.

Two years ago, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, leaking more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil.   Only last week, state and federal officials announced the reopening of most of the Kalamazoo River, which has been closed to the public so crews could clean up the oil spill.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Much of the Kalamazoo River, closed to the public since the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, is now reopened.

It’s been nearly two years since a broken pipeline near Marshall leaked more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil that eventually fouled more than 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Enbridge Energy will take its plans for a new oil pipeline across the state of Michigan to state regulators this week.

The new pipeline will replace the one that ruptured in 2010, spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Life is slowly returning to normal along the Kalamazoo River nearly two years after a broken pipeline dumped more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil into the river.

Today,  a Calhoun County park that has been closed since the oil spill officially reopened to the public.


A report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board shows employees in an Enbridge control center located in Edmonton, Alberta did not know they were pressurizing a ruptured oil pipeline in Michigan.

Employees in the control center felt they were dealing with false alarms due to pressure losses in the pipeline after a planned shutdown.

The pressure losses were not due to "column separation" as some thought (air and vapor pockets between slugs of oil in the pipeline). They were caused by a break in the line.

The rupture led to the spill, and the continued pumping made it worse. More than 840,000 gallons of oil spilled, according to Enbridge.

However, the EPA estimates that more than 1 million gallons of thick, tar sands oil have been removed from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River so far. The spill is still being cleaned up nearly two years later.

The NTSB estimates the pipeline ruptured around 5:58 p.m. on Sunday, July 25, 2010. Enbridge officials didn't know they had a spill on their hands for nearly 17 hours after the initial break.

In fact, employees increased the pressure in the pipeline - twice.

EPA Region 5

An ongoing investigation into the 2010 Enbridge oil spill by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is raising concern over frequent staff turnover and inexperience among personnel in the company’s Endmonton control-room.

Last Friday, the NTSB added new materials to the public accident docket, including transcribed interviews with Enbridge staff.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports:

In the transcripts, one control-room operator likens his job to that of an air traffic controller and says he’d like to see Enbridge do more to retain control-room staff in the hot Alberta job market.

“And you just don’t have air traffic controllers coming in and out of the system like that, right, because you know that it will impact safety, right?” says the transcription. “So, I’d like to see them really look at keeping people in the control-room, keeping us happy in there, and I don’t know what it’s going to take, but that’s what I’d like to see.”

The employee added that when he started working at the company 25 years ago, he could count a combined 100 years of experience among four employees in the control-room. Now, he said, the experienced personnel in the room tend to only have three or four years under their belts.

The NTSB also reported that the time of the spill coincided with a shift change in the control-room, offering a possible explanation of why the spill went unnoticed for hours.

In a press release, Enbridge officials said that they would wait to comment on the new findings until the NTSB publishes its final report later this fall. In the release, officials added that the company been working to improve the safety of its operations in the two years since the spill by doing things like changing the “structure and leadership of functional departments such as pipeline control, leak detection and system integrity.”

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom


MARSHALL, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials have released photographs and 5,000 pages of documents related to the pipeline rupture in southwestern Michigan that polluted the Kalamazoo River and a tributary creek nearly two years ago.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the leak, which spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude near Marshall in Calhoun County. Spokesman Peter Knudson said Monday the NTSB expects to reach a conclusion this summer.

The newly released material includes photos of the damaged pipe, reports outlining the sequence of events following the July 25, 2010 rupture and interviews with emergency responders and officials with Enbridge Inc., owner of the pipeline.

The 30-inch line extends from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge announced plans last week to enlarge the pipe so it can carry more oil.

Logan Chadde/Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy operates the pipeline that ruptured in Marshall almost two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of thick tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.  The oil spill is still being cleaned up.

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline. It’s known as Line 6B.

Now, the company plans to replace the entire pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan. 

Enbridge Inc.

Enbridge Inc. has been replacing and repairing parts of line "6B" as part of its maintenance and rehabilitation program. The pipeline was built in 1969.

Now company officials want to replace 200 miles of the oil pipeline in Michigan.

The "6B" pipeline broke open near Marshall, Michigan in 2010 and spilled more that 840,000 gallons of thick tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. There are still pockets of thick oil at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

The 6B pipeline has been operating at reduced capacity since the spill.

Crystal Garcia of the Times Herald of Port Huron reported on Enbridge's plan today.

She writes the existing pipeline is pumping around "243,000 barrels of oil a day with the pressure restrictions." A company spokesman, Joe Martucci, said the new pipeline would produce about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

If plans are approved, Garcia reports the existing pipeline will be taken offline and remain in place, and the new pipeline will be built about 25 feet from the existing line.

Replacing the pipeline will be done in two phases, Martucci said.

Part of the first phase — which includes two five-mile segments east of pumping stations near Griffith and LaPorte, Ind. and three five-mile segments east of Niles, Mendon and Marshall — already has been approved. The other part of the first phase — a 50-mile segment between Stockbridge and Ortonville — is near approval. Work on the first phase will be done this year, Martucci said...

Phase two includes 210 miles of pipeline from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville that was not replaced during phase one. A preliminary hearing for the phase two proposal will be at 9 a.m. June 6 in Lansing

The Times Herald reports if the plans are approved, most of the construction work would be done in 2013.


A new report argues that our current laws are not strong enough to protect the Great Lakes from major oil spills. 

The National Wildlife Federation wanted to look at pipeline oversight after the massive tar sands oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.  The spill was the result of a ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy.  (The official cause of the spill is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board)

Sara Gosman is an attorney who wrote the report for the National Wildlife Federation.

"Federal laws are inadequate and states have not passed their own laws to fill in the gaps."

We’ve previously reported the spill ran through some of the highest quality wetlands in Michigan.

Sara Gosman says federal laws on oil pipelines do not protect all environmentally sensitive areas.  Instead, the laws cover something called high consequence areas.

"It’s a term of art used by the federal pipeline agency.  It’s a bunch of different areas.  For environmental purposes, it’s commercially navigable waterways, areas with threatened and endangered species and drinking water sources."

Gosman says federal government data show 44% of hazardous liquid pipelines in the country run through places that could affect high consequence areas.  She says that means companies have to do special inspections on those segments of pipelines... but not necessarily on the rest of the pipelines.

"This means 56% of hazardous liquid pipeline miles do not have to be continually assessed, have leak detection systems or be repaired on set timelines."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Calhoun County Health officials will open up a three mile section of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall Wednesday at 8 a.m. It’s the first time the river has opened to the public since a major oil spill July 26th, 2010. 

It’s just a tiny portion of the 37 total miles of the river that have been closed since the underground Enbridge pipeline ruptured. Crews have recovered more than a million gallons of oil from the river.