Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 8, 2015. The United States filed today a proposed consent decree that will resolve claims of federal, state and tribal resource trustees for natural resource damages (NRD) caused by the 2010 rupture of Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline in Michigan that resulted in one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history. Under the proposed settlement, several Enbridge affiliates will be responsible for completing numerous natural resource restoration projects along the Kalamazoo River and will pay an additional sum of nearly $4 million to fund additional restoration projects, reimburse natural resource damage assessment costs of federal and tribal trustees and support ongoing restoration planning activities of natural resource trustees.
“This settlement will restore natural resources affected by the 2010 spill – one of the largest inland spills in our history – and compensates the public for natural resource losses resulting from the spill,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “By requiring restoration and monitoring, along with funding for the federal, state and tribal trustees, this settlement will go a long way toward correcting the injuries to injured natural resources along the Kalamazoo River.”
Trustees reached the NRD settlement in conjunction with a separate settlement that resolves related state law claims of the state of Michigan against Enbridge relating to the July 2010 spill. The state settlement was filed May 12 in the circuit court for Calhoun County, Michigan. The NRD settlement, which was filed in federal court today, provides funding to the federal, state and tribal trustees to conduct natural resource restoration, reimburses assessment costs spent by the federal and tribal trustees and incorporates requirements from the state settlement for Enbridge to conduct restoration and monitoring. More details on the NRD settlement can be found at .
The state settlement provisions that will also be enforceable under the NRD settlement include commitments by Enbridge to perform work to restore or compensate for injuries to injured natural resources along the Kalamazoo River, at an estimated cost of at least $58 million. Thus, the two settlements combined result in estimated expenditures of at least $62 million to resolve natural resource damages. In addition, the state settlement required Enbridge to implement a number of measures pursuant to state response action authorities and to pay the state for its costs of oversight of cleanup and restoration.
The NRD settlement addresses Enbridge’s liability for natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The NRD settlement provides for habitat improvement projects to address injuries to aquatic organisms, fish, reptile, mammals and birds, as well as for enhancements to public access and use of the Kalamazoo River for recreational, educational and cultural purposes. The trustees are proposing to implement the following projects with funding from the NRD settlement:
Replace undersized culverts, remove existing obstacles to water flow and increase floodplain capacity in two tributaries to the Kalamazoo River;
Control Eurasian water milfoil and otherinvasive species, within the Fort Custer State Recreation Area to provide improved habitat for warm water fisheries;
Restore 175 acres of oak savanna uplands in Fort Custer State Recreation Area;
Track and protect turtle reproduction in the impacted area of the Kalamazoo River;
Restore wild rice beds in suitable areas along the Kalamazoo River;
Document the historic use and knowledge of natural resources by members of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi to guide restoration and stewardship.
The NRD settlement also incorporates certain requirements from the state’s settlement with Enbridge, including requirements to:
Restore and monitor the 320 acres of wetlands affected by the spill and response activities;
Permanently restore, create or otherwise protect at least 300 additional acres of wetland habitat in compensation for wetland losses;
Evaluate stream function within the restored areas of Talmadge Creek and perform additional actions as needed;
Conduct monitoring and restoration activities related to the removal of large woody debris during the spill response;
Fund the state of Michigan to monitor fish contamination, fish populations and the health of stream bottom communities along Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.
- Enbridge has already implemented additional projects that relate to losses of natural resources:
Created the Kalamazoo River Community Recreational Foundation including a $2.5 million endowment to assure perpetual care of these projects
Removed the dam at Ceresco on the Kalamazoo River and restored over 2.5 miles of river channel that was previously impounded.
“Working together, the natural resource trustees are using the settlements in tandem to develop a big-picture, comprehensive plan to restore natural resources,” said Deputy Regional Director Charlie Wooley for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This cooperative approach will enhance our ability to return to the public the natural resources lost due to the spill.”
The trustees are asking for public comment on a draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (DARP/EA) developed to inform the public about the harm caused by the pipeline rupture and the proposed restoration projects described above to address these injuries and losses. This draft DARP/EA is now available for public review and comment at www.fws.gov/midwest/es/ec/nrda/MichiganEnbridge/, along with the consent decree for the NRD settlement filed in federal court at www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.
Settlement of the state law claims and the natural resource damages claims do not affect or alter Enbridge’s other liabilities or obligations under OPA or the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Enbridge’s Lakehead Line 6B pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan, on July 25, 2010, discharging oil into the environment. Enbridge discharged significant additional oil from Line 6B during two attempts to restart the ruptured pipeline on July 26, 2010. Oil discharged from Line 6B entered Talmadge Creek and ultimately extended approximately 38 miles down the Kalamazoo River. The oil impacted over 1,560 acres of stream and river habitat as well as floodplain and upland areas, injuring birds, mammals, reptiles and other wildlife. The river was immediately closed to the public and sections remained closed for several years, reducing recreational and tribal uses of the river.
The natural resource trustees in this case include the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of the Attorney General, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe).