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Minor spill bad news for Enbridge as Northern Gateway fight escalates

In this July 29, 2012 file photo, a worker monitors the water in Talmadge Creek in Marshall Township, Mich., near the Kalamazoo River as oil from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc, is vacuumed out the water.

Paul Sancya/AP

Repair work and clean-up efforts continue on a damaged Enbridge pipeline in rural Wisconsin, which released an estimated 1,200 barrels of oil on Friday.

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. said it would replace part of the pipeline on Monday, although the company was still unable to say when Line 14, which carries 318,000 barrels a day, would resume service.

The spill blackened a small field but did not appear to cause major damage. It comes almost two years to the day after a much larger spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River and at a time when the company is seeking support for its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta to British Columbia for export to Asia.

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That proposed pipeline has been under attack by environmentalists and first nations, and last week became an issue that overshadowed the premiers' meeting, when B.C.'s Christy Clark and Alison Redford of Alberta squared off over energy policy.

Early in the week, Ms. Clark unveiled her conditions for approving the project that included more financial compensation for assuming most of the environmental risk. Ms. Redford dismissed that request.

The United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has launched an investigation into Friday's spill.

Meanwhile, Enbridge said the clean-up effort was progressing.

"The crews are still on site; clean-up is progressing very well," company spokesperson Lorraine Little said Sunday.

Ms. Little said that Line 14 was inspected twice in the last five years, but could not say when the last inspection occurred.

News of Friday's spill prompted strong reaction on both sides of the border.

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"Enbridge is fast becoming to the Midwest what BP was to the Gulf of Mexico, posing troubling risks to the environment," said Rep. Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee in a statement.

Harvey Scott, the treasurer for Keepers of the Athabasca, a predominantly first nations group, said the spill is proof that existing infrastructure needs to be inspected and maintained before new projects proceed.

"The idea that we need more pipelines, we think, is folly," Mr. Scott said. "If we can't stop tar sands development ... then we want to slow things down."

Terry Teegee, Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, agreed.

"They're having problems with the pipelines they already are operating," Mr. Teegee said.

The council, which represents eight first nations groups in British Columbia, opposes the Northern Gateway project.

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With a report from Reuters

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