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Enbridge: 'They get to ignore things that are not to their advantage'

September 05, 2012 - When Karen Prater bought her home 12 years ago, the structure was in shambles.

Built in 1847 in what was then Austin Corners and is now Groveland Township, the Greek revival style home needed a significant amount of work. Prater and her husband set to remodeling the building with the goal of maintaining its historic character. A visit to the home located off Oak Hill Road shows the success of their efforts— the interior is faithfully decorated in 1800s style and the exterior architecture is striking in its grandeur.

However, Prater now fears the historic character of her 5-acre property is in jeopardy, and on a recent afternoon, she points out a multitude of stakes planted in the ground in close proximity to the home, which cross her yard and are visible in her neighbor's front yard as well. The stakes were put there by Enbridge, and mark areas where the company plans to run a new 30-inch in diameter petroleum pipeline alongside an existing pipeline.

"They're going to remove three trees right by the house, including a 100-year-old maple, and take out a privacy berm and that will change the historic character of this historic property," said Prater. "I have no qualms as long as they protect our area and do (construction) responsibly, but without damaging property and being invasive."

Enbridge sent letters last fall notifying Prater and other property owners of their plans to replace segments of the Line 6B petroleum pipeline. The pipeline originates in Griffith, Ind. and extends across southern Michigan, including 3 miles of pipeline in Groveland Township and six miles of pipeline, including a pumping station, in Brandon Township. The 75 miles of pipeline that Enbridge plans to replace ends in Sarnia, Ontario.

The new pipeline is proposed to be installed alongside the existing pipeline in

place since the 1960s, which will be left in the ground and deactivated. The plan has raised concerns from landowners with whom Enbridge has easement agreements, and also prompted the Brandon Township Board of Trustees to unanimously pass a resolution last month demanding Enbridge apply the same safety measures required by the Northern Gateway Project in Canada, higher standards than are being required in the United States for this project.

Following Brandon's action, Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma said he would also draft a resolution in support of increased safety standards for the pipeline that will be going through Groveland. The next Groveland Township Board meeting is set for 7 p.m., Sept. 10, at the township offices, 4695 Grange Hall Road.

Prater notes that while she was aware of the existing pipeline when she purchased her property and knew that the easement agreement said one or more lines could be installed, she did not take into account all the possible ramifications.

"I don't remember hearing at that time about terrible tragedies like spills and environmental disasters, but as time goes on, you become more educated on what can go wrong," she said. "Enbridge has a less than stellar history."

Her concerns grew two years ago, following the Marshall, Mich. 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.

It was not long after that disaster that Enbridge workers "tore up" her property and that of her neighbors while doing repairs on the pipeline and replacing sections, and moving the berm that they now plan to completely remove, again altering the character of her property, with little compensation.

"Most frightening is they are taking down trees and they can sell the existing pipeline and it can be reused," said Prater. "I can be exposed to possible contamination... I don't want to be a bed and breakfast here or have tourists. I just want to enjoy the home and its history and respect the property for what it is. They act like a utility, but they are a private company... They get to ignore things that are not to their advantage. I understand we need the pipeline, but it has to be in a reasonable way without steamrolling us."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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