* Regulators issue orders following 2011 spill
* Says employees restarted line despite leak alarms
* No fine levied
* Critics call action "slap on the wrist"
CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 26 Employees at Plains All
American Pipeline LP's Canadian unit disregarded leak
alarms and restarted a ruptured oil pipeline as they caused one
of the worst oil spills in Alberta's history, a report issued by
the province's pipeline regulator found.
Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board issued four
"high-risk enforcement actions" on Tuesday against Plains
Midstream Canada as it wrapped up an investigation into the
April, 2011, breach of the Rainbow pipeline. The spill on the
pipeline released 28,000 barrels of crude oil in a wilderness
area near the northern Alberta native community of Little
There were no further penalties from the board, which can
only levy minor fines. It estimates the spill, which closed the
line for 122 days, cost the Alberta economy C$850 million ($826
"That's a huge economic impact and it was industry wide,"
said Darin Barter, a spokesman for the board.
The spill from the pipeline which takes crude from northern
Alberta and the Northwest Territories to Edmonton was one of the
largest in the province's history. It came on the heels of a
number of other ruptures, including Enbridge Inc's
high-profile 2010 spill near Marshall, Michigan, that caused
U.S. regulators to characterize Enbridge employees as "Keystone
Kops" because they failed to shut the pipeline after alarms
The ERCB said Plains Midstream also failed to shut down the
Rainbow pipeline despite leak alarms sounding at its control
center. The line was down and restarted three times before being
finally closed more than eight hours after the initial alarm.
"Overall, the actions of Plains appeared to demonstrate a
practice of placing higher priority on continued operation of
the pipeline over any potential impacts related to a pipeline
leak," the board said in its report.
The regulator said Plains Midstream Canada must implement
new risk assessment procedures; conduct an emergency response
exercise; and confirm that it has improved its backfill
The board also ordered Plains to improve its crisis
communications, saying its efforts to keep the public informed
after the spill were substandard.
The company said it is reviewing the board's findings.
"Plains is carefully reviewing the ERCB's investigation
report to determine whether any further findings and
improvements can be applied to our operations," Plains said in
an email signed by "Plains Communications". "We have finalized
the results of our own detailed investigation and have applied
those lessons learned to improve our overall operations."
The findings and the orders did not mollify some critics,
who called for hearings into pipeline safety in Alberta.
"The ... report is a damning indictment of pipeline safety
in Alberta as yet another pipeline company has failed to protect
Alberta's environment and people and only received the lightest
slap on the wrist," Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, said in a statement.