Citizens want Enbridge to have plan for pipeline leaks
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 6, 2012 3:30PM
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:36PM
PORTAGE — Try as they might, officials with Enbridge Energy Co. couldn’t shake questions about the damage an oil leak from the replacement pipeline the company is installing across the region could do to Lake Michigan.
Dozens of people showed up for a public meeting with Enbridge officials, held Thursday and sponsored by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Environmental Management Policy Committee.
The questions, many from landowners who have the old pipeline that’s being replaced along the same path on their property, weren’t without merit. The Canadian company had a massive pipeline breach two years ago in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and a smaller one earlier this summer in Wisconsin.
Officials said they have learned from their mistakes, particularly the one in Michigan, beefing up response procedures, training and public awareness.
“The Marshall (Michigan) incident was very unfortunate. It was horrible,” said Jennifer Smith, a community relations adviser for the company’s office in Griffith, where Enbridge has a terminal.
Enbridge made a number of internal and procedural changes, installed a new leak detection system and increased staff. “We have taken that as a learning incident and don’t want it to ever happen again,” Smith said.
Still, those attending the meeting, including Nathan Pavlovic, land and advocacy specialist with Save the Dunes, which pushed for public meetings about the project, asked for details on what a clean-up plan for Lake Michigan would look like if there were a breach.
The project stretches 300 miles, and 60 of them go through the region, starting in Griffith and going through Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties into and through Michigan. The plan replaces 30-inch pipe that was installed in 1968 with 36-inch pipe, and clears out and caps the old pipe, which will still be maintained. The $1.6 billion project — Indiana’s portion is $300 million — could begin this fall, depending on the permitting process, Smith said.
Along the way, the pipe will go through streams and creeks within 20 miles of Lake Michigan.
“The whole economy of this region deals with the status of Lake Michigan,” said Mark Reshkin, a retired Indiana University Northwest geology professor, adding he wanted to see plans for handling an oil spill.
Enbridge officials downplayed the chance of a spill, but Erin Argyilan, chairwoman of the geosciences department at IUN, said the company should be able to come up with a scientific model of what a spill would look like and the response plan.
“We can’t hope to learn from the next disaster, which impacts Lake Michigan,” she said to applause.