07/11/2012 04:12 EDT | Updated 09/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline: Michigan Oil Spill's Lessons Will Be Applied In Canada, Company Vows

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CALGARY - Lessons learned from an Enbridge pipeline spill in Michigan two years ago will be applied to the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline and other future projects, the soon-to-be CEO of the pipeline company said Wednesday.

"We haven't just been sitting around for the past two years," Enbridge president Al Monaco told reporters at the TD Securities Energy Conference.

"We made lots of enhancements in various areas of our business and we're going to continue to apply those learnings."

Monaco made his remarks a day after a report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board slammed the company's response to the leak, in which some three million litres of crude spilled into wetlands, a creek and the Kalamazoo River.

The agency said control room employees misinterpreted alarms signalling a problem with the pipeline and pumped more oil into it — twice — instead of shutting it down. It said it took more than 17 hours to respond properly.

The report also said Enbridge knew about corrosion problems on Line 6B in the southern part of the state five years before the spill and didn't fix it.

NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Enbridge handled the spill like "Keystone Kops" — the incompetent policemen in silent films. On Wednesday, Monaco declined to comment on the "subjective nature of that moniker."

Some employees are "no longer with us," said Monaco when asked if anyone had been disciplined following the spill. He declined to be more specific.

He said more than 200 in-line inspections, which he likens to MRIs, have been done on Enbridge pipe over the past two years.

"We're very comfortable with the strength of our pipelines, but if we do identify some areas that need more active approach then we will take that."

Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair said Tuesday the NTSB report should kill Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which would ship oilsands crude to the West Cost for export to Asia, the Victoria Times-Colonist reported.

"Northern Gateway should be stopped and the plug should be pulled on it," the newspaper quoted Mulcair as saying.

He said the report "should be the final nail in that coffin."

First Nations groups, environmentalists and others are concerned a spill from that pipeline — or from the tankers that would sail in and out of the pipeline's terminus of Kitimat, B.C., — could damage the B.C. ecosystem.

The project is currently about midway through a regulatory hearing process.

Mulcair is to travel to oil country this week to take in the Calgary Stampede.

He's been critical of Alberta's oil and gas industry. Among other things, he's argued the energy sector's strength has jacked up the dollar, which has harmed manufacturers elsewhere in the country.

Monaco said he's open to chatting with Mulcair while he's in town.

"I would gladly meet Mr. Mulcair if he so desires," he said.

Monaco takes the helm of Enbridge once Pat Daniel retires later this year.

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