June 25, 2014 - The dust hasn't settled from the Enbridge pipeline yet, nor from the Consumers Energy gas main extension, but a new pipeline appears to be headed straight through Brandon and Groveland townships.
Residents that will be directly affected by a new proposed natural gas pipeline received letters this past week from ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC inviting them to an informational open house, and Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman is already hearing concerns.
"I'm shocked," said Thurman. "There is a strong possibility of a natural gas pipeline coming through the township... I don't believe the township has the option to say no, as long as they follow ordinances. They will be contracting with homeowners."
Still, at least half a dozen homeowners have contacted Thurman, some worrying about ruined landscapes and proximity of the pipeline to homes. Thurman said while there are lots of questions, she did not yet have many answers. The proposed route of the pipeline, she has learned from a Rover representative, would encompass six miles within Brandon Township, roughly parallel to the Line 6B petroleum pipeline owned by Enbridge, starting on Reese Road and intersecting Baldwin Road north of Granger. She has also been told the pipeline, 42-inches in diameter, would require 60-foot easements.
Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma first heard of the pipeline on Wednesday from a concerned resident. Both he and Thurman supplied the form letter that was mailed to affected residents from ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC.
The letter identifies the Rover Pipeline Project as a new interstate natural gas pipeline that will transport gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
Calls to a toll-free ET Rover Pipeline number in the letter were not immediately returned, nor was a direct call to an ET Rover representative.
The pipeline will consist of about 200 miles of pipeline laterals and 365 miles of mainline pipe in Ohio and Michigan, supplying Consumers Energy, Vector, and Michigan Consolidated utilities, as well as 15 miles of mainline pipe crossing the border in Canada to end at Union Gas Dawn Hub in Ontario, according to the website www.energytransfer.com/ops_etrover.aspx.
"Because of significant increases in the domestic natural gas supply due to shale gas production, the U.S. is no longer dependent on foreign sources," the letter reads. "The construction of the Rover Pipeline will provide new natural gas pipeline infrastructure for your area. The Rover Pipeline was designed to move natural gas to local utilities, to other pipelines for midwest markets, and to the Dawn Hub for northeast markets."
In addition to the pipeline, the ET Rover letter states there will be a need to build compression and metering stations along the route, although it is not specified where these stations would be, nor what they would constitute.
Unlike the Enbridge pipeline, which replaced an existing pipeline (which remains in the ground alongside the new pipe) in place since the 1960s and for which Enbridge had homeonwer easements and the townships had no recourse, the Rover Pipeline would be entirely new.
"This is still America," said DePalma. "They can't come through your property if there isn't an easement. If they have an easement, the jurisdiction is probably identical to Enbridge. Half the people who had the Enbridge pipeline running through their yards didn't even know they had it (prior to Enbridge returning and saying they were putting a new pipeline in)."
However, the letter appears to have a thinly veiled reference to eminent domain, in which private property can be taken for public use.
According to the letter, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is responsible for conducting an environmental review of construction and "The FERC will complete an environmental review to consider the environmental impact that could result if it issues a certificate of public convenience and necessity to authorize the Rover Pipeline Project."
ET Rover is holding a series of open houses to give information to those affected by the project. The nearest open house for area residents is one planned for 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., July 14, at the Fenton Township Hall, 12060 Mantawauka Drive, Fenton 48430.
"The big question is, is it eminent domain?" asked Thurman. "Can you imagine if it's right next to the Enbridge pipeline? It would be a 120-foot easement."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville