Source: Sherman Publications

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ET Rover protests heat up
Residents, township officials gear up for fight to block proposed natural gas pipeline project

by Susan Bromley

July 30, 2014

Jessica and Chad Rummel stand next to the Enbridge replacement oil pipeline that will soon be buried in their property alongside the old Enbridge pipeline. ET Rover has proposed a new natural gas pipeline project that would also cross the Rummels’ property, as well as that of many other Brandon and Grovlenad Township residents, drawing opposition. Photo by Susan Bromley.
Brandon Twp.- Jeff Axt believes ET Rover is looking for the path of least resistance with the natural gas pipeline project they have proposed and which would cut a swath through his property and that of dozens of other township residents, many of whom already have the Enbridge Line 6B pipelines through their properties.

If so, ET Rover has come to the wrong township.

More than 100 people attended a July 24 meeting organized by Axt regarding the proposed pipeline, with nearly all opposed to the project as demonstrated by a show of hands in a packed room at the library, and now the township board is gearing up for a fight to prevent the problems endured through replacement of the Enbridge line, which is not yet completed.

"The current route as proposed is insane," began Axt, who distributed thick packets of information to those in attendance, including a Detroit Free Press news article about Energy Transfer Partners' sale of a natural gas pipeline to Enbridge for use as a crude oil pipeline two years ago. Energy Transfer Partners is the parent company of Rover and in their bid to gain permission for the sale of their pipeline to Enbridge, claimed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that they didn't need the pipeline for natural gas capacity. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, as well as Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, opposed the transfer as detrimental to the stability of the state's natural gas supply, but it was approved and now, just seven months later, ET Rover is claiming the need for a new gas pipeline— one that runs parallel to much of the Enbridge Line 6B oil pipeline.

Axt expressed disbelief at the meeting, with vocal agreement from much of the audience, that Rover would propose putting a natural gas pipeline next to an oil pipeline. If there was a gas explosion, he pointed out, it would impact the adjacent pipeline. "Gas explodes and oil burns," he said. "Resistance from a safety standpoint needs to be forward thinking."

Instead, he said it appears Rover is using as a selling point the fact that the proposed route is one already used by another pipeline.

"There is a bigger plan," he said. "This township becoming a pipeline corridor is the bigger risk. How many pipelines running through your property would be enough? Two? Three? Four?"

The potential of multiple pipelines and the inherent safety risks, as well as decreased property values, will affect all township residents, not just those with the pipelines on their actual land, he emphasized, and the township board appears to agree.

Supervisor Kathy Thurman called a special meeting of the board July 30 to gauge which action the board would like to take in regards to ET Rover's proposed project. It took only minutes for the board to agree that a formal resolution in opposition to the project should be crafted and brought to the next township board meeting, set for 7 p.m., Aug. 11, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

"I don't want to put up with another Enbridge," said Trustee Ron Lapp. "It's been a nightmare. We are not their servants, that's not how government works. I think we need to dig our heels in and say, 'Not here, we're going to fight you.'"

The township's resolution in opposition, if approved on Aug. 11, will be sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Axt is hoping FERC will also be flooded with comments opposing the project from township residents and during the July 24 meeting, he distributed the forms enabling them to do just that, along with a long list of reasons they could use to protest the pipeline, including already having multiple pipelines on their property; multiple easements limiting land use, development, and reduction of property value; the proposed pipeline doesn't benefit Michigan as it is a "pass through" for export; approval of the pipeline means high probability of additional infrastructure projects on the same route; potential impact radius in which the potential failure of the pipeline(s) could have significant impact on people or property; national security issues from having pipeline infrastructure in the same corridor, making an easier target for terrorists; and various environmental impacts and risks.

Chad and Jessica Rummel are among the township residents who will send comments to FERC in opposition of the proposed ET Rover natural gas pipeline. On Monday, they walked their property off Granger Road, where the massive Enbridge replacement pipeline still waits to be buried, stretching as far as the eye can see to both sides of their driveway. Like the Enbridge pipeline, the proposed Rover pipeline would also cut across wetlands, taking out old growth trees, and leaving the Rummels with open swamp.

"They reneged on selling the pipeline to Enbridge and now they are asking for another natural gas pipeline," said Chad Rummel. "This shows a clear lack of vision...They say they can't plan, there are too many variables. Restoration from Enbridge is supposed to happen this fall, and just as we would be getting back to normal, another company wants to do this all over again."

Oakland County Commissioner Michael Spisz (District 3) was at the township board's July 30 special meeting and said he planned to discuss the Rover project with his fellow commissioners within the next few weeks so a county position could be formed.

"Putting it next to Enbridge doesn't make sense to me," he said. "There are better routes."

Axt is hoping the feedback to FERC will result in the route being pushed to the north, closer to I-69 in Genesee County. His alternate proposed route goes through country which is flatter, has more farmland, and fewer people and bodies of water than northern Oakland County.

He notes that it has been difficult for residents and township officials to propose an alternate route due to Rover's refusal to give their exact proposed route. The company, which sent letters to potentially affected landowners in June, has only given information on individual parcels when requested.

The ET Rover project proposes a 600-mile pipeline to transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio through Michigan and into Canada. Construction would begin in early 2016. The pipeline is anticipated to be 42-inches in diameter and will transport 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, but will likely be expanded to transport up to 3.25 billion cubic feet per day.

The project is currently in review by FERC through December. It is during this timeframe that residents in affected communities must make their comments heard in order to have a chance at impacting FERC's decision on whether to grant the pipeline and route as requested.

"We need to be in unison," said Axt, who encouraged residents to not allow surveyors on to their property. "We can be honorable people in our opposition. This is not radical, we have good arguments and a good shot here."