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Enbridge sub-contractor ticketed
Petroleum pipeline company disregards twp. ordinance

by Susan Bromley

July 16, 2014

Brandon Twp.- When a Cook Trail resident and her family were awakened around 6 a.m., July 9 by loud construction trucks, police were called.

Township ordinance forbids construction before 7 a.m. However, the rules may not apply to Enbridge, the multi-billion dollar company replacing the Line 6B petroleum pipeline.

According to an Oakland County Sheriff's Office police report, a deputy advised a lead inspector for an Enbridge welding subcontractor at the pump station site that construction trucks could not be running and work could not commence before 7 a.m. and a citation was given for violation of township ordinance hours of construction operation.

"Their equipment was up and running way before the hours allotted," said OCSO Sgt. Greg Glover, Brandon substation commander. "I have informed the patrol officers if there are any violations of the ordinance, they are to write the tickets. There will be a court battle, because their stance is that federal law supersedes our ordinance, but they signed an agreement with the township."

The township board denied a request by Enbridge in April to extend construction hours on the pump station the company is building at 3403 Seymour Lake Road. Enbridge had signed a contract agreeing to abide by the township ordinances.

Now Supervisor Kathy Thurman said the company is taking the position that the agreement only applies to construction of the pump station, and not the pipeline on which the welders were working early on July 9. Enbridge officials have also informed Thurman and Glover of their plans to work on Sundays.

Township Building Director Bill Dinnan said that relative to construction hours, it appears the township ordinance does not apply to Enbridge's pipeline due to a loophole in the ordinance that only gives the township authority over individuals and businesses that have applied for building permits or site plan approval. While the Enbridge pump station falls under that jurisdiction, the pipeline itself appears to be under state and federal jurisdiction only.

"It isn't that it doesn't matter, however, there is nothing in our ordinance that gives us the authority to do anything about it," said Dinnan. "There will be no more ticketing until we make sure the legal counsel is in concert with the building department and the supervisor's office. We will continue to try to enforce working hours, but why write tickets to send them to court when we know nothing will happen with it?"

During the April meeting when the board denied Enbridge's request for extended hours, Meredith Powell, an Enbridge representative, said the company was aware the neighbors were unhappy. She also said the company knew they had "things to work on" and were committed to doing what the township required.

"If they want to be good neighbors, they should abide by our ordinance, but they may not have to," said Thurman.

Part of the Line 6B replacement pipeline will be in service May 1, with the deadline for the entire line to be in service by Sept. 1. The Line 6B crude oil pipeline stretches more than 200 miles from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville, Mich. In Brandon Township, there will be six miles of replacement pipeline as well as the nearly 35-foot tall pump station, which will exceed 5,000 square feet, and house two 6,000 horsepower pumps and a spare.

The project encountered resistance in Brandon when the company failed to obtain proper permits and violated township ordinances. Enbridge was responsible for one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history, the 2010 Marshall, Mich. disaster in which 1 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River from a ruptured pipeline. For most of 2012, township officials challenged Enbridge plans after their requests for higher safety standards went unheeded and even approved court action before the company finally met legal requirements.

"We'll do what we can, but we may have limited options," said Dinnan of Enbridge's current actions. "We may not have as much control as the general public would like us to have. We are looking at revising the ordinance... Who was to anticipate that a pipeline would come through town and they would only deal with state and federal regulations? Now that we know, let's fix it. My list of ordinance fixes is getting longer by the day."

That fix, he added, should happen before the next proposed pipeline, a natural gas project proposed by ET Rover, comes through.