Enbridge to restart Line 14 on Tuesday

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:51pm EDT

The Enbridge Tower is pictured on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber

The Enbridge Tower is pictured on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton August 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Dan Riedlhuber

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc plans to restart on Tuesday a pipeline that leaked more than 1,000 barrels of crude onto a Wisconsin field after receiving the greenlight from U.S. regulators.

U.S. pipeline regulators last week issued Enbridge a corrective action order, calling for measures to be taken before it would allow the resumption of flows along Line 14, which was halted after a leak was discovered on July 27.

The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said on Monday that a series of provisions for Enbridge had been met in order to restart the 318,000 barrel-per-day pipeline, which carries Canadian crude to refineries in the Chicago-area.

"Communities across the country deserve to know that the pipelines running underneath their homes, streets and businesses are safe," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "That is why we are requiring Enbridge to commit to such a thorough safety plan."

Some of the conditions of the restart include additional aerial and foot patrols of key areas of the pipeline and a temporary reduction in operating pressure, the Transportation Department's pipeline regulator said.

"The amended return to service plan requested by PHMSA on August 1, 2012 was accepted and approved today," Enbridge said in a statement on Monday.

PHMSA said the line's pressure would be limited to 80 percent of the pressure in place at the time of the spill, until the cause of the leak was determined and appropriate remedial actions were taken.

The shutdown caused a brief spike in regional gasoline prices that eventually drove up prices on the Gulf Coast and U.S. Northeast as supplies were diverted to meet the shortfall.

LaHood said he would be holding weekly meetings with his agency to make sure Enbridge was complying with the requirements of the restart.

The decision to allow the operations to resume on the pipeline follows the agency's unusual order last week calling on Enbridge to submit a plan to ensure the structural integrity of its entire 1,900-mile (3,000-km) Lakehead Pipeline System and not just Line 14.

In that order, the department questioned Enbridge's integrity management, citing an earlier spill on Line 14 and a 2010 spill in Michigan.

The massive 2010 BP offshore oil spill, followed by a series of high profile pipeline accidents, have placed pipeline leaks in the spotlight.

In response to rising concerns about pipeline safety, the Transportation Department launched a new safety initiative last year to strengthen pipeline oversight.

The spill in Wisconsin was another setback for Enbridge, which is still dealing with fallout from a 2010 spill on Line 6B that fouled part of Michigan's Kalamazoo River.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington and NR Sethuraman and Soma Das in Bangalore; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Bob Burgdorfer and Marguerita Choy)

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