Oil spill company's legal moves slammed

Sept. 1, 2010 at 12:57 PM
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DETROIT, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The company responsible for an oil pipeline leak in Michigan may have compromised the legal rights of residents evacuated from the spill area, lawmakers allege.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the chairman of a key House committee asked Holder to look into whether Enbridge Energy Partners pressured Michigan residents to surrender legal rights to sue in exchange for hotel rooms, air purifiers and other expenses in the wake of the spill along a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Enbridge may also have urged residents requesting information about possible health effects to sign a form giving the company access to their complete medical records.

Oberstar and Mark Schauer, a Battle Creek Democrat whose district includes the spill site, sent a letter to Enbridge President and CEO Patrick Daniel saying "Enbridge's efforts to take legal advantage of Michigan residents ... are reprehensible," and urging the company "to voluntarily rescind any" agreements signed by residents.

"We are outraged that Enbridge would convince or seek to convince residents, workers, and business owners to sign release forms, which attempt to release Enbridge of all liability from claims -- in some cases in exchange for an air purifier," Oberstar and Schauer said in their letter to Daniel.

Enbridge officials have not responded to the letter.

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