Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes speaks to the media in Calgary in January 2012
Credits: STUART DRYDEN/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON - Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes chided Enbridge -- the company behind the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline -- on Tuesday after a U.S. regulator compared the company's handling of the Michigan spill to the Keystone Kops.
While environmentalists quickly used U.S. National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman's comments as evidence the planned pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., should be nixed, Hughes said there are lessons to learn from the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill.
"I would say the regulatory system is much tighter in Alberta than it is in the U.S. We will be looking at this to see if the government of Alberta can learn from that experience in the States," Hughes said.
"Obviously, Enbridge has much to learn."
The U.S. report identified problems in the company's Edmonton control room.
It took more than 17 hours to discover the breach that would eventually spill 840,000 gallons of oilsands bitumen, a mess that's racked up $800 million in cleanup costs, Hersman said, adding Enbridge was aware of problems with corrosion on the line in 2005.
"That is already five times the next most-costly onshore oil spill," said Hersman.
Calgary-based Enbridge was working within American regulatory system when the spill occurred.
"Their practices in Canada have been different," said Hughes.
"There will be an opportunity to speak with Enbridge at the appropriate time. It will already be clear to
Enbridge that this type of a circumstance would not be acceptable anywhere in Canada," he said.
Alberta NDP environment critic Rachel Notley said the province's Progressive Conservatives are selling out Albertans if they don't take a lesson from the report. She renewed her call for an independent public review of regulatory oversight of Alberta's massive pipeline system.
"When we see repeated failures on the part of pipeline companies, both the environment and industry sustainability are put at risk," Notley said.
Enbridge spokesman Todd Nogier said the company will apply the spill's lessons to current and future operations.
"It underscores how important it is to look at our operations and we've done an exhaustive review and made a number of changes ... nobody wanted this to happen," said Nogier.
Enbridge, he said, will continue its efforts to convince B.C. residents of the importance and benefits of the pipeline.
The Kalamazoo River was re-opened to recreational use last month and wildlife has returned to the stricken area, he said.
The U.S. government has proposed a fine of $3.7 million for the spill.
Northern Gateway is being subject to a review and hearings process that's expected to last until 2013.