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Oil pipeline project delayed



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July 04, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- The township board has postponed giving consent to Enbridge Energy to replace a petroleum pipeline that runs through the township.

"I don't think the board or the community understands the magnitude of this project," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman.

She added that of numerous communities across the state the project affects, the township is the only municipality she is aware of that has requested Enbridge to seek approval to move forward with the project. Toward that end, Enbridge, a multi-billion dollar oil company based in Calgary, Alberta sent four representatives and a lawyer to the board's July 2 meeting to answer questions.

Enbridge first notified residents and township officials last September of a plan to replace segments of Line 6B, a crude oil pipeline that runs between Griffith, Ind. and Marysville, Mich. The planned replacement to be completed by the end of 2012 consists of 75 miles of pipeline (Line 6B) that transports crude oil to various refineries in the region and includes a 50-mile segment between Stockbridge and Ortonville to be replaced with 30-inch diameter pipe.

The existing Line 6B segments will be properly purged and safely deactivated, said Enbridge officials. The project also calls for installation or modification of certain station facilities, such as pumps and tanks, at various locations. The project will reduce the amount of future maintenance activity that would be required as well as meet the growing demand for additional pipeline capacity along this route.

Enbridge's replacement plan requires them to acquire new right-of-ways or widen existing right-of-ways in some areas to ensure sufficient room between the pipeline and adjacent natural gas pipeline. The company has been negotiating with landowners for easements.

Thurman said the first phase of the project, scheduled to begin in September, is about three miles long and would require installation of pipeline under roads and residents' property on Reese and Allen roads, M-15, Hadley Road, Perry Lake Road and Seymour Lake Road and may include more minor roads. The first phase ends at a pump station on Cook's Trail. The second phase of the project is an additional three miles in Brandon for the pipeline that runs east and west, crosses Sashabaw, Sherwood and Wooley roads and also has other minor roads involved.

Groveland Township is also affected, with another 6 miles of pipeline beginning around Oakhill Road and Dixie Highway in the township and crossing over to Brandon.

"The board wants a good map of the pipeline route," Thurman said. "We also want to know which roads are covered with the county's security bonds and we want information on the environmental impact of putting in a second pipeline... The board is concerned with any negative impacts to our environment and making sure the construction is done in a safe manner for our residents."

Phase II approval is currently being considered by the Michigan Public Service Commission, said Marc DeVarennes, manager of engineering and construction for Enbridge, while phase I has been approved.

"We are working to resolve individual concerns," said DeVarennes. "We are trying to get additional easement from landowners, about 25 feet. There are single line rights and multiple line rights, and under each, certain legal rights if they don't want to give additional easement... We will make a good faith offer and then go to court through a legal process."

The first phase of the plan to replace pipeline is "integrity-driven," or driven by apparent concern over the age and structural soundness of the pipeline. The second phase of the project is "capacity-driven," meaning that Enbridge's shippers expect an increase in volume.

Enbridge has decided to leave in the original pipeline, draining and capping it, as a better solution than removing it, for less impact or disruption to residents along the route.

Several boardmembers cited concerns over environmental impact, with Trustee Cheryl Gault noting that Brandon Township is the headwaters to two significant rivers in the area. Clerk Jeannie McCreery also voiced concerns about the "Kalamazoo incident," referring to the July 26, 2010 disaster in which a ruptured Enbridge pipeline spilled approximately 1 million gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and ultimately the Kalamazoo River. The Environmental Protection Agency approved up to $13 million for response efforts and rated the spill a Type 1 incident, requiring the largest number of resources the EPA has available. EPA Deputy Incident Commander Mark Durno said it was the biggest volume pipeline break in the past 20 years.

"After the Kalamazoo situation, you can't test every spot (in the pipeline), but I don't want to wait so long that one of those spots bursts," said McCreery. "I don't want to delay so long (on installing replacement pipe) that we destroy our environment."

DeVarennes said old oil will be pushed out of the existing pipeline and it will be deactivated and capped at both ends.

"There will be limited risk of anything from the old pipe leaking into the ground," he said.

While there are no plans to use the old pipeline, it is considered an asset and DeVarennes said that "theoretically, it could be used in the future, or sold to another utility to be used."

Enbridge is current in negotiations with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as they are boring a "significant" number of welands. Oakland County has approved road permits for the project.

"We will be happy to work with you on whatever issues you have, but environmental permits come from the DEQ, state, and federal government," said Michael Ashton, an attorney representing Enbridge. "If you have concerns, we can discuss it."

Township resident Jeff Axt said the board should ask Enbridge specific questions— including whether they need to comply with the Michigan constitution, if they need permission to run their pipeline through public spaces, if they are responsible for paying the township as if they were a private landowner, and whether Enbridge is considered a public utility.

"The term public utility under Michigan law is not consistent," said Ashton. "You have to look at the particulars of the situation."

Thurman noted after the meeting that the Enbridge representatives gave "wishy-washy answers."

"They have paperwork from the state allowing them to do the project," she said. "I would think a new pipeline would have better standards as far as the integrity, that's the reason they are putting it in. It will come through our township whether I support it or not, but I want to make sure it's done properly."

The next township board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., July 30, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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