Enbridge settles class action suit over oil spill

Booms are seen along the Kalamazoo River at Custer Drive in Battle Creek, part of the cleanup effort from the Enbridge oil spill. (Sept. 23, 2010)


CERESCO, Mich. (WOOD) — Enbridge Inc. has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought against it in response to a 2010 spill that dumped more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The agreement will cover everyone who owns land or lives within 1,000 feet of the river between Talmadge Creek and the mouth of Morrow Lake. That’s the area affected by the pipeline break that spilled some 840,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River on July 26, 2010. Recent estimates place cleanup costs at $1.21 billion.

Five people filed the class action against the company and a settlement was reached Friday. 24 Hour News 8 contacted two of the five, who said they couldn’t comment on the it because they were under a gag order.

24 Hour News 8 then went to the Village of Ceresco. The Kalamazoo River runs through the middle of town.

Everyone who spoke with 24 Hour News 8 there had not heard anything about the suit or the settlement.

Rick Frey, who has lived in Ceresco his entire life, was surprised by the settlement terms and said his family was not expecting or asking for anything from Enbridge.

“We’re not in it to try to be — to take any more money away from Enbridge or anything else. We’re quite content with what they have done as far as all the work and everything,” said Frey.

Frey said he hasn’t forgotten what it was like after the spill — far from it.

“Terrible. Terrible,” said Frey when asked what it was like immediately after the spill. “I couldn’t hardly tolerate the smell… It was horrendous.”

But despite the initial frustration or problems the spill caused, Frey said he believes Enbridge has taken responsibility for its mistake.

“It’s not like it’s nothing that they did this intentionally. Accidents happen everyday, and when it gets right down to it, they did what they needed to do,” said Frey. “They abide by all the regulations that were issued to them. It’s just a time-consuming project, but they’ve got it pretty much remedied.”

24 Hour News 8 spoke to another man in the village who was not satisfied with how Enbridge handled the situation. The feeling was that a couple of hundred dollars wouldn’t make much of a difference.

That’s likely what it would mean for most people affected by the agreement — several hundred dollars.

The settlement filed in Western District Federal Court in Grand Rapids Friday, Enbridge estimates it will pay about $6 million dollars to settle the class action lawsuit.

Of that, about $2.2 million will be split among residents and land owners based on how close their property is to the affected waterways. People who live directly along the water will split an estimated $250,000. The dollar amount of the settlement falls the further someone’s land is from the river and will be delivered in the form of a gift card able to be used at businesses in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties.enbridge payment scale 120814

Those who lived 201-400 feet away will receive a $750 gift card, 401-600 feet  will receive a $600 gift card, 601-800 feet will receive a $400 gift card and 801-1000 feet away will receive a $300 gift card.

If the settlement agreement is approved by a federal judge, those affected will receive a notification. In order to receive any of the funds, people affected will have to fill out and send in a claim form. If someone doesn’t send in a claim form or opt out of the settlement, that person will be held to the agreement but will not receive anything in exchange.

Enbridge spokesperson Jason Manshum told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Monday that gift cards were the chosen method of payment for sums $750 and below so the money stay within Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties.

Manshum then sent 24 Hour News 8 a written statement from Enbridge that states in part:

“The settlement has positive outcomes for the local communities in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. We agreed to this settlement as part of our overall commitment to address the concerns of the community.”

The settlement agreement also calls for Enbridge to set aside $1.5 million for claims related to the spill. The money will reimburse people for expenses between July 26, 2010 and Aug. 31, 2010 linked to the spill — things like hotel bills, relocation expenses, meals, gas or fuel, and lost wages.

Enbridge will also cover requested well testing, an estimated to cost of about $50,000.

A number of area public safety and conservation groups will get a share of a $150,000 donation fund set up under the settlement.

—–

Full e-mailed Enbridge statement:

Enbridge has worked closely with local residents from the outset of the Line 6B release near Marshall, Michigan, to resolve claims and pay all legitimate damages that were a direct result of the incident. A proposed settlement was recently reached in a class action case and has been filed with the Court for approval.  The settlement class consists of owners and occupants on July 26, 2010, of all tax parcels within 1,000 feet of the Kalamazoo River, beginning where Talmadge Creek enters the Kalamazoo River in Calhoun County and ending at the mouth of Morrow Lake in Kalamazoo County. The settlement has positive outcomes for the local communities in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. We agreed to this settlement as part of our overall commitment to address the concerns of the community.

“The settlement comes as cleanup on the river is now complete. Dredging operations are finished, and the remaining sediment on the nearby dredge pad has been removed. That property is currently being restored and turned back to its owner. Moving forward, we will continue to monitor and assess the river, sediment and overbanks in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Components of the Class Settlement

  • Enbridge will establish three claims programs to compensate eligible Class Members:
    • the Band Payment Program
    • the General Claims Administration Program
    • the Well Testing Program
  • Those three claims programs are independent of each other.
  • In addition to the direct compensation programs, Enbridge will establish a Donation Fund.
  • Enbridge will donate an initial $150,000 to organizations that benefit the local community, support public safety, encourage river recreation in the Kalamazoo River, or other environmental conservation efforts as outlined in the settlement agreement.

Band Payment Program (Pre-paid Cards)

Payments

  • The settlement includes a program to provide pre-paid cards to eligible parties who lived in areas between 200 – 1,000 feet of the Kalamazoo River between Talmadge Creek and Morrow Lake in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties.
  • The cards can be used for a two-year period at eligible businesses located in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties.
  • Eligible parties within 200 feet will be eligible for a cash payment.
  • Businesses within 200-1,000 feet will be eligible to receive a cash payment.

Merchant Participation

  • There is no cost to any business to participate in the program. Businesses will receive direct economic benefit as a result of the program since the cards are only redeemable at approved businesses.
  • Some national merchants with stores in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties may also be eligible to participate.

 

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