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Spills always seem to be good for lawyers, if not for the environment.  More than 300 lawsuits have been filed against BP relating to the Gulf oil spill, in addition to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that is handing out emergency money from the $20 billion set aside by BP. But lower profile spills also attract lawsuits.

Enbridge Inc. – Canada’s largest transporter of crude oil – delivers more than 2 million barrels of crude oil and liquids across Canada, and into the United States per day.[1] On July 26, a break in the Lakehead System’s 6B pipeline

(a 30-inch line which carries approximately 190,000 barrels of oil daily from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario), was detected near Enbridge’s Marshall, Michigan pump station.[2] No one was seriously injured; however, an estimated 877,000 gallons (3,319,708 litres) of oil was released into a creek which subsequently flowed into the Kalamazoo River tributary.[3][4] Drinking water and air quality have been severely affected, forcing several residents to leave their homes.[5] Residents affected by the spill have filed a class action against Enbridge Inc. in the U.S. federal court.  According to Courthouse News Service, the class seeks unspecified damages from Enbridge and its companies for “trespass, nuisance, negligence and violation of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.”[6] It is estimated that Enbridge could face more than US$26 million in civil penalties, if the spill exceeds 3.8 million litres.[7] In addition, the Great Lake Law Centre sent Enbridge Inc. a notice of intent

to file a citizen suit under Section 505 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C sections 1365.[8]


[1] Our Pipelines Enbridge Inc. Available at http://www.enbridge.com/DeliveringEnergy/OurPipelines.aspx

[2] Enbridge Responds to Leak on Line 6B. Enbridge Inc. Available at http://response.enbridgeus.com/response/

[3] Update 2 – Pipe break hits U.S., Canada refineries. (July 26, 2010). Reuters. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2623027120100727

[4] Tim Martin. (July 8, 2010). Three Million litres of oil spill from Enbridge pipeline into Michigan River. Toronto Star. Available at http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/840975–three-million-litres-of-oil-spill-from-enbridge-pipeline-into-michigan-river

[5] Joseph Celentino. (August 5, 2010). Pipeline Leak Mucked Up River, Residents Say. Courthouse News Service. Available at http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/08/05/29343.htm

[6] Shaun Polczer. (August 7, 2010). Residents file suit against Enbridge. The Windsor Star. Available at http://www.windsorstar.com/business/Residents+file+suit+against+Enbridge/3371924/story.html?cid=megadrop_story

[7] Enbridge notified of planned spill lawsuit. (August , 2010). CBC News. Available at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2010/08/02/cal-enbridge-spill-kalamazoo.html

[8] Great Lakes Environmental Law Center sends notice of intent to sue Enbridge over pipeline oil spill. (August 2, 2010) Great Lakes Law. Available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/blog/2010/08/great-lakes-environmental-law-center-sends-notice-of-intent-to-sue-enbridge-over-pipeline-oil-spill.html

[9] Greenpeace occupies Enbridge office in downtown Vancouver. (July 28, 2010). Greenpeace Canada.  Available at http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/recent/Greenpeace-occupies-Enbridge-office-in-downtown-Vancouver/

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