August 13, 2014 - Local elected officials are united in their opposition to a proposed natural gas pipeline.
In meetings Monday night, both the Brandon Township and Groveland Township boards unanimously passed resolutions opposing the natural gas pipeline that ET Rover wants to put through the townships, as well as numerous other communities along a route that parallels that of the Enbridge Line 6B petroleum pipeline.
In a packed room at the Aug. 11 Brandon Township Board meeting, several residents voiced concerns about the ET Rover project, which proposes putting a 600 mile natural gas pipeline originating from Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio through Michigan and into Canada. The pipeline is anticipated to be 42-inches in diameter and could transport up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The current proposed route would include approximately three miles in Groveland Township and six miles in Brandon Township, roughly following the Enbridge Line 6B petroleum pipeline which runs through the townships, and which is still being replaced here.
"Our concerns are the wetlands in the front and back of our property," said Shirley Zanoni, who resides on Hadley Road in Brandon. "The Kearsley Creek crosses the back of our property. It's a dumb place to run a pipeline. One thing that really bothers us— our soil is not good for this project. Arsenic in the water is not the only porblem in this area— there is a lot of sand and wetlands... We hope others step up and say it's not a good thing."
John Strong, a Perry Lake Road resident, also spoke out, bringing with him documented research that cites the United States has had more than 700 serious accidents involving natural gas pipelines from 1994 to 2013, including more than 200 fatalities.
Chris Begley, another Brandon resident, said he felt it was "ludicrous" the government could take property (through eminent domain) and "put a potential explosive device next to a house."
"I have serious safety concerns," he added.
The Brandon Township Board agreed.
"We've been bombarded with concerns and we take them seriously," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "We have to look ahead to what we leave behind in the ground for our children."
Without further discussion, the board uanimously passed two resolutions— the first of which opposes the pipeline in its entirety, and the second of which suggests the pipeline be rerouted. In the opposition resolution, the board notes two major points— that less than two years ago, ET Rover's parent company, Energy Transfer, claimed there was no need for the existing amount of natural gas capacity in Michigan and sold its north/south transmission line to Enbridge Energy to transport petroleum; and that the proposed route does not supply natural gas to Michigan beyond the MichCon delivery point in Livingston County. Instead, it is merely a "pass through" to another country, not serving the common good of Michigan residents.
In the resolution requesting the reroute, the township board cited several problems with the proposed route, including that unlike when the petroleum pipeline was put in through the township in 1968 and had only a population of less than 5,000, the township now has more than 15,000 residents; the pipeline would have a "devastating" impact to not only woodlands aesthetics, but also to wetlands ecosystems as the township contains the headwaters to both the Flint River and Clinton River watersheds; a rupture of the piepleline would be a safety hazard, particularly with it in close proximity to an existing petroleum pipeline, which experts believe could be "disastrous" with catastrophic results in the event of an explosion; and property values in the township would plummet with the pipeline construction.
The resolution continues by noting that residents have "already made significant sacrifices for the public interest" with construction and repairs of Enbridge Line 6B here in the township in 2011 following the 2010 rupture of the pipeline in Marshall (the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history), and again in 2013 and this year as Enbridge replaced the line in its entirety (and left the original line in the ground). The pipeline would require additional 50-foot easements from residents, as well as 100-feet of temporary workspace and considering sacrifices already made "it is not reasonable or just for Brandon Township to be established as a pipeline corridor."
The reroute resolution, like the opposition resolution, also noted the sale of the previous natural gas pipeline by Energy Transfer to Enbridge.
The Groveland Township Board also unanimously passed a resolution to reroute the proposed ET Rover pipeline, citing the same concerns, but in reference to Groveland residents.
"How much more can we expect our residents to give up of their property?" asked Groveland Township Clerk Pam Mazich. "Is it safe to run this next to the Enbridge pipeline when there are alternatives less invasive on the environment? We are just getting all the facts and objectives, but we definitely feel we need to support the resolution and protect our residents."
The resolutions from both Brandon and Groveland will be sent to elected officials including Governor Rick Snyder, Senator Dave Robertson, Representative Brad Jacobsen, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Commissioner Mike Spisz (who was in attendance at the Brandon meeting) and Commissioner Bob Hoffman, Senator Carl Levin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Representative Mike Rogers.
The resolutions will also be filed as comments before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is currently reviewing the proposed ET Rover pipeline project. FERC, which will ultimately approve or reject Rover's application for the pipeline route, will accept input through December from residents in affected communities at ferc.gov.
"Keep pressure on elected officials," said Brandon Trustee Ron Lapp. "You have the biggest hammer you're ever going to have with the election coming in November. Write, call, and write some more."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville