Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

August 15, 2013

Editorial - Aug. 15, 2013: Greater scrutiny for Indiana, Mich. pipeline

The issue: Enbridge Energy’s new pipeline.

Our view: Regulations must be in place to protect our natural resources.

 

You can hardly blame the protesters who last week held up work on Canada-based Enbridge Energy’s new pipeline installation through Cass County for their environmental concerns.

Enbridge is replacing 210 miles of pipeline across southwestern Michigan and northwestern Indiana.

The cleanup of the Kalamazoo River, where the existing Enbridge pipeline burst three years ago, spilling more than 1 million gallons of heavy crude oil, is still not complete. It was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. Many are still thinking about the devastation that would have transpired had the contamination not been stopped short of Lake Michigan.

Enbridge has a troublesome track record for maintaining its pipelines, reporting 804 spills between 1999 and 2010, according to the Hoosier Environmental Council. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that the company violated dozens of regulations in connection with the Michigan spill and assessed a $3.7 million penalty. The cost of the cleanup has been estimated at nearly $1 billion.

The infrastructure that failed in Michigan is 45 years old and sections of it would require extensive repairs. State and federal officials made the right decision in agreeing that Enbridge could replace it with new pipe made of stronger steel and double the wall thickness.

It’s difficult to understand, however, why an alternate route wasn’t considered, at least through St. Joseph, LaPorte, Porter and Lake counties, where the line crosses wetlands in the Hudson Lake area and four rivers, all within 20 miles of Lake Michigan.

The project in Indiana will be done in the existing easement or within the 25 feet adjacent to it. It must meet federal safety regulations upgraded after the Michigan spill to mandate automatic shutoff valves and to require that Enbridge report any leak within an hour. Enbridge also has voluntarily agreed to hire an outside consultant to monitor construction and report environmental concerns directly to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Leak-detection technology which is being mandated, however, falls short of the latest advancements. Why, given the sensitivity of the Great Lakes watershed?

Our government exists to protect our common good, including our natural resources. The mood in some political circles favoring less regulation should not prevail at the risk of devastating and enormously expensive consequences.

Enbridge has barrels of money to lobby policymakers. Hoosiers and Michiganders must use their voices and their votes to communicate how they want the pipeline regulated to ensure its safety.

— South Bend Tribune

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