Officials from the state of Michigan will announce today that they have reached a $75 million dollar settlement with Enbridge Energy concerning their Kalamazoo River oil spill, according to an article in the Detroit News.

Five years ago (time surely does fly), an underground pipeline near the city of Marshall busted and released more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into a nearby creek which eventually flowed into the Kalamazoo River. According to records, it was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

According to the article, to date, Enbridge has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on cleanup work and compensation for those affected.

In the article, Dan Wyant, director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, stated that the settlement was a "huge win for Michigan.”

Wyant then went on to say, "It's a rare kind of settlement, because it focuses very specifically on the river. There are so many things we've wanted to do to help the Kalamazoo River, work that has needed to be done for decades, but there wasn't a revenue source to make it happen.”

Some people feel the settlement was too small, but I do not believe they are taking into account the $1.2 billion dollars Enbridge has spent already.

Enbridge was thinking — and it appears made it a condition of the settlement — that all of the money will be earmarked for restoration and improvement of the affected areas and the funds cannot be diverted to unrelated areas of the state budget (i.e. the tobacco settlement which has been raided by the state every year for purposes other than tobacco related ones).

According to the Detroit News, Wayne State Professor Noah Hall, who was instrumental in the creation of the Detroit-based Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, stated that he “is not surprised by the kind of agreement hammered out between Enbridge and the state. It's an approach that stresses project completion over civil penalties and cuts to the heart of what government perceives to be the role of environmental law.”

I believe that is the right approach to these types of disasters. Do you?

He went on to say that we should not be focused on crushing these companies, which would then hurt our economy; instead, we certainly have the company restore the damage to the status the environment was before the spill.

I can certainly attest to being told by listeners who lived on and around the affected areas that the river and streams are actually better than before the spill occurred.

Many people who were affected by the spill told me that Enbridge treated them very well.

I remember interviewing state environmental people who stated on air that their relationship with Enbridge, after this spill occurred, could be a model to be followed by other companies that find themselves in this predicament. Enbridge worked well with them and attempted to work out solutions to all the areas with which the state environmental people had issues.

Were you affected by this oil spill? If so, did Enbridge treat you fairly?

Should the goal of any settlement of an environmental disaster be to correct the damage that occurs, and not try to put the company out of business?

If there is willful negligence, should the goal be to punish the company to the extent that we put them in a position where they may go out of business?

What are your thoughts?

Let’s discuss this today on my show The Live with Renk show, which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon, to let me know your thoughts at (269) 441-9595.

Or please feel free to start a discussion and write your thoughts in the comment section

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