UPDATE 2-Alberta regulator says Plains ignored spill alarms

Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:56pm EST
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* 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 (Reuters) - 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 Buffalo.

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 million).

"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 sounded.   Continued...