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Is Enbridge action enough for regulator’s own overseer?

Enbridge Inc. President and CEO Patrick Daniel speaks at the company's annual general meeting in Toronto on Wednesday, May 9, 2012.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Enbridge Inc. is taking a bruising from a U.S. pipeline regulator – the same regulator that took a recent bruising from its overseer for its handling of Enbridge.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a so-called corrective action order in response to Enbridge's oil leak on Line 14 in Wisconsin. The leak happened Friday; the letter was issued Monday.

The PHMSA detailed previous problems with Line 14, including defects at the time of construction as well as a previous leak. It said the Calgary-based company's "integrity management program may be inadequate." As a result, it has forced Enbridge to take a series of safety steps, file reports on past failures as well as its current effort, and comply with certain restrictions when it is allowed to restart the line.

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The PHMSA issued the order "without prior notice and opportunity for a hearing" because "a failure to issue this order expeditiously to require immediate corrective action would likely result in serious harm to life, property and environment," Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety, wrote in the order.

But will this tough talk and speedy action be enough to satisfy the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board? The NTSB, an independent federal agency that examines transportation safety, slammed the PHMSA on July 10, saying the regulator's reaction to Enbridge's 2010 spill in Michigan was inadequate.

"The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration provides this safety net for our citizens and our communities," Deborah Hersman, the NTSB's chair, said in her opening remarks at a hearing. "In this rupture, we saw the operator take advantage of weak regulations for assessing and repairing crack indications; and PHMSA was ineffective in overseeing Enbridge's pipeline integrity management programs, control center procedures, and public awareness programs; and had inadequate review of oil spill response plans."

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About the Author

Carrie Tait joined the Globe in January, 2011, mainly reporting on energy from the Calgary bureau. Previously, she spent six years working for the National Post in both Calgary and Toronto. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan. More

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