Enbridge seeks to rebuild pipeline; NTSB to discuss report Tuesday [Detroit Free Press]By Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
July 08--The pipeline company that faces a proposed $3.7-million fine for an oil spill that dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a Kalamazoo River tributary in 2010 wants to build a new pipeline next to its existing line through Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties.
The line would be part of its massive pipeline replacement project in Michigan.
Enbridge Energy has applied to the Michigan Public Service Commission to build the pipeline, the same line that ruptured near Marshall. Under the plan, the company says it would deactivate the old line but leave it in place.
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board is to discuss its report into the investigation of the causes of the 2010 spill. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced the proposed $3.7-million fine on Monday and listed two dozen probable violations connected to the spill and its reporting.
Critics contend the project is an attempt to use the concerns from the 2010 spill to pressure the public service commission to allow the company to build a new, higher capacity line quickly and without the same level of federal oversight that would occur if the entire line, including a section across the St. Clair River into Ontario, was replaced as one project.
"This spill is the best thing that could have happened to Enbridge in Michigan," said attorney Gary Field, of the push to build a replacement pipeline. He is challenging the pipeline company's efforts on behalf of several affected landowners in the region and also said, "They're using it to their advantage because it's urgent now."
Enbridge says it needs the new line, which would be thicker than the current one and would increase the capacity of the entire line -- essentially doubling it along much of the route -- to reduce the impact of maintenance on landowners and the environment and to meet forecasted demand for oil in Michigan and nearby states.
The company said it hopes to complete the 285 miles of new pipeline between Griffith, Ind., and Marysville, Mich., by the end of 2013. The company says the $1.3-billion project would create more than 21,900 temporary or permanent construction jobs.
Attorney Field of Okemos said nothing prevents the company from restarting its mothballed pipeline once the new one is built, allowing for even more oil to flow. A company official, however, said that is not the intent.
"We have no plans to restart that pipeline," said Joe Martucci, a company spokesman on major projects, although he appeared to acknowledge that plans can change, saying "Never say never."
Carl Weimer, executive director of the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, said an eventual restart of the old line could prove too costly.
However, he said the company's proposal to increase the capacity of the pipeline should be a concern.
"I think there's lots of issues that they're upping their capacity.... Enbridge seems to be playing hide the ball with that," Weimer said. "That's a substantial capacity, and that's why some people are wondering where it's going to go."
The pipeline travels through Leroy Rodgers' property in northern Oakland County.
Rodgers, who has lived in his home on Cook Trail in Brandon Township since 1995, is one of several landowners challenging the way Enbridge notified them of a hearing before the commission last month.
"I have no ax to grind with them, but they have to come talk to me to tell me what the hell they're doing," Rodgers said, showing off a notice and cover letter that, according to Rodgers' attorney, Gary Field, prompted only four of 1,300 potentially affected landowners to attend the meeting. "It doesn't tell you anything in there."
Field was denied in his attempt during the hearing to have the notice reissued, and commission staff has since responded to a written appeal by Field, saying that the company's notification was adequate. Field also filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals of the commission's April approval of Enbridge's 50-mile segment of planned new pipeline between its Stockbridge pump station in Ingham County and its Ortonville pump station in Oakland County, which is next to Rodgers' property.
Field said that if property owners understood what was at stake, many more would take a direct interest because the company could seize part of their property.
The company's application says it would negotiate in good faith with landowners for added permanent or temporary right-of-way and easement grants but may try to exercise eminent domain if such negotiations are unsuccessful.
Rodgers said he is concerned that if the space, including the temporary space used during construction, is as large as the paperwork indicates, it could directly affect his home.
Enbridge staff said the company is generally requesting an additional 25 feet of easement, and they note that landowners are compensated for additional land the company needs.
"I've heard that described as anywhere from 25 feet to 105 feet," Rodgers said. "One hundred-five feet is on my front porch."
The project is also of interest to Brandon Township officials. Company representatives were at a township meeting Monday to provide information on the project. Supervisor Kathy Thurman said she expects the township board to ultimately give Enbridge its consent because the company seems willing to work with the officials. But she said concerns were expressed about the 2010 spill.
"We're cognizant of that and we want to ... prevent something like that happening here," Thurman said. "I'm just concerned for the safety of the residents and the preservation of our environment."
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: email@example.com
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