August 22, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- The township board has considered a presentation from Enbridge and has responded by presenting a list of requirements to the company that plans to construct a replacement oil pipeline in the area.
The township board unanimously approved during their Aug. 20 meeting a resolution for the Enbridge Line 6B replacement project.
"This is where public pressure starts," said Jeff Axt, who was among several township residents who praised the board for being the only municipality to attempt to take action against the multi-billion dollar company that plans to run a replacement petroleum pipeline from Indiana to Canada, including a 50 mile segment between Stockbridge and Ortonville , 65 miles total in Michigan, with approximately six miles in Brandon Township and three miles in Groveland Township. "A little skepticism and push back is action from principle. You get to be the ones who did the right thing."
Leroy Rogers agreed.
"It's really rewarding to me that you guys have stood up and tried to make a difference."
Supervisor Kathy Thurman said the board is not demanding in the resolution that Enbridge get consent, but was seeking assurance the company would operate by the highest safety standards for the new pipeline and would not use the current pipeline, which will be deactivated, in the future.
"We do not want to open ourselves to a lawsuit," she said. "(These standards) are what Enbridge agreed to provide to Canada."
"We should demand in writing they agree and put a bond up," said Treasurer Terry Beltramo.
The resolution, which was forwarded on to Enbridge officials following the meeting, was drafted due to concerns about the multi-billion dollar company's transport of a variety of crude oil, including tar sand oil. The resolution notes that particular oil is "by nature corrosive and toxic, extremely hazardous to the environment and all forms of life," and also notes that Brandon Township has the beginning of two major watersheds (Flint River and Clinton River). Enbridge has had numerous spills, including one in Wisconsin last month, and the 2010 Marshall 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.
The resolution acknowledges that Enbridge has reported a need for the replacement of line 6B as the "integrity of the pipeline has undergone numerous testing and significant faults have been discovered with some resulting in leaks and oil spills that have significantly compromised the environment and required millions of dollars to clean up" and also cites Enbridge's work with the Northern Gateway project team "to ensure their project would be built and operated to the highest standards including further enhancements in pipeline design and operations."
The Northern Gateway Project consists of twin pipelines proposed to be installed between the provinces of Alberta and British Colombia in Canada. The project has faced opposition from multiple native groups and has sparked widespread concern about the environment, causing numerous delays in construction. Last month, Enbridge sought to allay concerns by offering extra safety measures.
Those enhanced safety standards are what the Brandon Board is seeking here, demanding in the resolution that Enbridge comply with the following requirements prior to construction in the township, equal to or greater than the Northern Gateway Project:
1. An increased pipeline wall thickness of the oil pipeline.
2. An additional pipeline wall thickness for water crossings.
3. An increased number of remotely-operated isolation valves.
4. An increased frequency of in-line inspection surveys across the entire Line 6B pipeline system by a minimum 50 percent over and above current standards.
5. The installation of dual leak detection systems.
6. 6. On-site monitoring, heightened security, and rapid response to abnormal conditions at the Ortonville pump station.
7. A guarantee that once the original pipeline is deactivated it will not be used for any kind of petroleum, natural gas, propane or environmentally hazardous product in the future thereby doubling the amount of hazardous material running through Brandon Township.
8. Compensation to Brandon Township for the additional usage of township roads.
Joe Martucci, Enbridge spokesman for the Line 6B project, said he had no comment specifically on the wording of the resolution, but wanted to emphasize, "Enbridge has instituted a number of enhancements in pipeline design, construction and ongoing maintenance and operation of the pipeline and we plan to build a state of the art project using the most advanced technology safety measures and procedures in the industry today."
When asked whether Enbridge would comply with the Northern Gateway standards here, he responded that the Michigan Public Service Commission approved the Line 6B project and noted that the laws and regulations in Canada are different than the United States.
"I don't know if it's a higher safety standard," Martucci said. "Enbridge follows laws for wherever we are building and operating pipelines. In some cases, we exceed (the existing standards). The project as approved, I should emphasize, will exceed requirements and represents improvements over existing pipeline."
The Line 6B project team is reviewing the resolution. Martucci said Enbridge is working with "well over" 600 private property owners and has easement agreements with the majority. He said he does not have a date on when construction in Ortonville begins, nor would he speculate on what the next steps will be or what Enbridge's response would be to the township's resolution.
Thurman is sending the resolution to other communities that will be affected by the pipeline route and is awaiting an Enbridge response.
Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma, who was in attendance at the Brandon Township Board meeting, said he will also draft a resolution in support of increased safety standards for the pipeline that will be going through Groveland.
"We don't have a permitting process on our books in regards to approving pipelines for utilities or other entities," he said. "All of this pipeline transverses private properties and is only 3 miles in Groveland. We don't own the roads or the property. We are going to watch what happens with Brandon… It appears they have higher safety standard in Canada. Why didn't our federal legislators and public service commission require those same standards in the U.S.? If it is good enough for Canada, why can't they do it here?"
The first phase of the project was scheduled to begin in September, is about three miles long in Brandon 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.
"Hopefully we will be able to work with Enbridge and they will be amenable to our conditions," said Thurman. "According to them, they don't need permission. I am hoping they don't start construction without giving a response to the resolution."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville