Regulators OK Michigan oil pipeline replacement

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm •  Published: January 31, 2013

"In addition, the replacement project will reduce the amount of future maintenance activities that would otherwise be required to maintain the integrity of the pipeline," spokeswoman Lorraine Little said.

Some parts have been replaced since the July 2010 leak into the Kalamazoo River and a tributary called Talmadge Creek near Marshall, about 70 miles southeast of Grand Rapids, which fouled more than 35 miles of waterways and wetlands. About 320 people reported symptoms from crude oil exposure. The cleanup is in its final stages.

Federal agencies ordered Enbridge to pay a $3.7 million penalty and said it had failed to deal adequately with structural problems detected years earlier.

Enbridge says after the new line is installed, existing segments will be purged and filled with an inert gas as required under federal regulations.

The National Wildlife Federation, one of the environmental groups that criticized Enbridge for the spill, said it was disappointed that the Michigan commission approved the permit. While replacing the pipeline is a good idea, the company shouldn't have been allowed to divide the project into segments, which enabled it to avoid a more stringent federal review, said Beth Wallace, the federation's Great Lakes community outreach adviser.

"There would have been more public input as well as a long-term environmental impact assessment" if the federal government were involved, Wallace said.

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