EPA tells Enbridge it must plug leaking oil pipeline outside Chicago by noon on Monday

Friday, September 10, 2010

EPA orders Enbridge to stop Ill. pipeline spill

CHICAGO — The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday ordered Enbridge Energy Partners to stop the flow of oil from its leaking pipeline outside of Chicago by noon Monday.

EPA said that Enbridge crews have contained oil spilling from the pipeline and are trying to determine how the leak happened.

EPA spokeswoman Anne Rowan said the pipeline was leaking an estimated 200 to 600 gallons of crude per hour.

“The leak site itself is contained but oil is continuing to drain out of the pipeline,” said Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson. “As that oil drains out crews are cleaning it up.”

The Houston company does not have a timetable for restoring the line to operation but is working to divert its volume to other pipelines and storage facilities.

Enbridge shut the pipeline down after the leak was reported Thursday in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville. Oil spewed onto a roadway and into a nearby retention pond but no injuries were reported.

The company said the pipeline was transporting about 459,000 barrels per day of heavy crude when the leak occurred. The 34-inch pipeline can transport as much as 670,000 barrels per day of oil products from Superior, Wis., to Griffith, Ind.

The leak disrupted bus service for students of Valley View School District 365U and caused the district to close one school and lock down six others following the discovery of suspicious devices later found to belong to the EPA.

About 10,000 students in the district had to find their own way to and from school after morning and afternoon bus service was canceled because of oil cleanup efforts near the Romeoville bus barn.

District Superintendent Phillip Schoffstall said student absences Friday will be listed as “excused.”

Meanwhile, the discovery of what school officials believed to be bomb-like devices taped to light poles in five school parking lots prompted the closing of one school and the lockdown of six others. The devices later turned out to be air quality measuring instruments put in place by the EPA.

“It’s better safe than sorry,” said school safety coordinator Leroy Brown. “Our administrators have been trained to put student and staff safety above all else. They followed the (emergency and crisis response) plan perfectly.”

Earlier this summer, more than 800,000 gallons of oil leaked from an Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline into a creek that feeds the Kalamazoo River valley about 60 miles southeast of Grand Rapids, Mich.

The closure of the pipeline near Chicago, which delivers oil to Midwest refineries, boosted oil prices more than $2 a barrel on Friday amid concerns about how long the supply may be disrupted.

Although oil and gasoline inventories are plentiful, oil traders are concerned that Midwest supplies could tighten if the pipeline stays closed for some time, analysts said.

That could send retail gasoline prices higher in the upper Midwest, perhaps as much as 30 cents a gallon, depending on how long the pipeline is out of operation, according to Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.

Chicago area residents could pay $3 or more for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline, Kloza said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that a gallon of unleaded averages $2.86 in Chicago now.

Enbridge Energy Partners is an affiliate of Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Canada.

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