Enviro groups target good, bad of Enbridge pipeline plan
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org June 1, 2013 11:36PM
Updated: July 3, 2013 6:23AM
Environment groups of Northwest Indiana are somewhat pleased, but also critical of the conditions in the water quality certification issued by Indiana Department of Environmental Management to Enbridge Energy.
IDEM set conditions that the pipeline company must meet as they replace Line 6B, which runs through Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties, into Michigan, and out to the Canadian East Coast.
The new pipeline will transport up to 800,000 barrels a day in oil.
“The permit includes several significant steps to protect natural resources during and after construction of the pipeline,” said Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes. “However, it is by no means a grand slam.”
In July 2010, a 30-inch pipe that originated at Enbridge’s Griffith facility ruptured near Marshall, Mich., and leaked 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, according to the EPA. Heavy rains carried the oil 35 miles downstream before it was contained.
Some positives the environmental groups like Save the Dunes and the Hoosier Environmental Council applaud include hiring independent environmental monitors (IEMs) to oversee construction and report environmental concerns directly to the state.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time IDEM has ever included IEMs in a permit document for a construction project,” said Nathan Pavlovic, a land and advocacy specialist for Save the Dunes. “While there are kinks that must be worked out to ensure the effectiveness and independence of the monitors, a positive precedent has been set,”
The permit also requires Enbridge to restore any areas impacted by the construction, and prove successful restoration after 10 years.
Still, the environmental groups are worried that it’s not enough.
“IDEM, through its certification, is allowing Enbridge to disregard alternate pipeline routes and other opportunities to reduce and eliminate water quality impacts,” said Kim Ferraro of the Hoosier Environmental Council, “in likely violation of the Clean Water Act.”
She added the provisions of the permit doesn’t apply to the entire project.
Pavlovic said the company won’t be using state-of-the-art safety measures, a concern he holds because of recent oil spills caused when the same pipeline ruptured, spilling crude oil in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
The environmental groups added last week that Enbridge has not yet confirmed whether they will use American-made steel and products or local labor.
Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, challenged Pavlovic’s critiques on safety measures, saying the company is placing additional valves on the pipe, more than required by law, and increasing the thickness of the pipeline.
Smith added that Enbridge will use steel products made in North America, and about 40 percent to 50 percent of the labor will come from local union halls and contractors.
Overall, she adds that they are pleased with IDEM’s approval process, and the company has hired independent monitors in the past.
On finding an alternative route for more sensitive environmental areas, Smith said, “That’s part of the IDEM permitting process, to provide alternative routes. But following our existing pipeline, we feel it’ll have the least amount of impact on not only the environment but to stakeholders along the route.”
If the project receives its final approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, construction could start as early as August.