INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A coalition of environmental groups has pressed Indiana
regulators to impose tough conditions on Enbridge Energy’s plans to replace
50 miles of crude oil pipeline near Lake Michigan, warning the company’s
history of oil spills and other problems requires strong steps to protect
the lake’s ecosystem.
The new pipeline will run underground through four northern Indiana
counties, skirting the lake’s southern shoreline, and carry twice the volume
of oil as the decades-old pipeline it will replace.
Six groups that include the Hoosier Environmental Council, Save the Dunes
and the Sierra Club’s Hoosier Chapter want Indiana to require Enbridge to
install leak detection sensors along the pipeline and hire an independent
monitor to ensure the pipeline’s installation complies with state and
federal water quality rules.
Those steps are needed because an oil spill along the pipeline could
devastate the lake’s ecosystem, including tributaries used by trout and
salmon, and harm the region’s lake-dependent economy, said Kim Ferraro,
director of agricultural and water policy for the Hoosier Environmental
“This is a real concern, this isn’t just a possibility. We’ve just seen time
and again that this company has had major spills, so we’d like to see them
take the appropriate steps upfront to make sure those same things don’t
happen here,” she said.
In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in southwestern Michigan, fouling
more than 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River and other waterways and wetlands
with more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude oil. Federal agencies ordered
Enbridge to pay a $3.7 million penalty after that spill, saying the company
failed to deal adequately with structural problems detected years earlier.
Enbridge also agreed to pay a $1.1 million fine in 2009 for violating
Wisconsin permits designed to protect water quality during construction of a
321-mile, $2 billion oil pipeline across that state.
The environmental groups scrutinizing the Indiana pipeline say Enbridge has
a “dismal track record” of maintaining its pipeline networks in other
Nathan Pavlovic, the land and advocacy specialist with Michigan City-based
Save the Dunes, said the Indiana pipeline will cross 145 wetlands and more
than 80 streams, rivers and lakes that could be fouled with sediment runoff
as crews excavate trenches and bury the pipeline. The project will come as
close as 10 miles from Lake Michigan.
“If construction is done properly those resources can be protected, but if
it’s a rush job, it has the potential to really negatively impact them,” he
The Indiana pipeline project is part of Enbridge’s $1.6 billion project to
replace the entirety of a 286-mile-long pipeline that runs from Griffith,
Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, to supply expanding refineries with more crude.
When complete, the pipeline will have an initial capacity of 500,000 barrels
per day, more than double the current pipeline’s capacity.
Enbridge said in a statement that it will have environmental inspectors
assigned to the Indiana project to ensure compliance with its permit
conditions and that it’s not opposed to being required to hire independent
Enbridge also said its new pipeline will have leak-detecting pressure
transmitters at every valve.
Last week, Michigan regulators approved the final permit Enbridge needed to
replace a total of 160 miles of oil pipeline in Michigan.
But Indiana regulators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are still
reviewing Enbridge’s requests for Clean Water Act permits to install the new
36-inch diameter pipeline in Indiana. The old 30-inch pipeline, installed in
the late 1960s, will be shut down, drained and sealed.
The Army Corps hasn’t made a final decision on a permit or the conditions
for the Indiana project, said Andrew Blackburn, a regulatory specialist with
Marty Maupin, a wetlands specialist with the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management, said the agency is mindful of Enbridge’s past
spills as it considers the company’s request for water quality certification
for the project.
“We’re certainly aware that Enbridge has had some issues in the past,
especially in Michigan. And we are reviewing their project to the best of
our ability to ensure it will not cause problems in Indiana,” he said.