Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Obama administration’s top pipeline safety official has recused herself from matters related to Enbridge Inc’s massive oil spill in Michigan because she previously worked for the company’s American arm.

Cynthia Quarterman, the head of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, did not appear at a House hearing today about the Enbridge spill. A Center for Public Integrity and CBS News investigation published on Tuesday examined how the company encouraged residents living near the spill site to sign legal and medical waivers, an issue addressed at the hearing.

Before she was named to the job overseeing America’s network of pipelines in August 2009, Quarterman had represented Enbridge Energy Partners as an attorney for law firm Steptoe & Johnson. Under the Obama administration’s ethics rule, an appointee must wait two years before participating “in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to his or her former employer or former clients.”

In place of Quarterman, John Porcari, deputy secretary of the DOT, appeared before the House Transportation Committee to field questions about the Enbridge pipeline accident that occurred in late July.

Also testifying was Enbridge’s chief executive, Patrick Daniel. He told lawmakers the company would rescind all medical waivers it had obtained from residents that were signed in exchange for small payments or air purifiers. The waiver forms, described as “borderline fraudulent” by Michigan Democrat Mark Schauer, had allowed Enbridge to access the signer’s entire medical history.

“I also request, and have requested in writing, that you rescind all of those [medical forms] that have been signed. Would you agree to do that?” Schauer asked. Daniel responded with one word: “Yes.”

The July spill dumped more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River area, about 120 miles west of Detroit. Another Enbridge pipeline last week leaked gasoline into drinking water supplies outside Romeoville, Ill.

Help support this work

Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.