Enbridge, the embattled pipeline company that faces a proposed $3.7-million fine for an oil spill that left over 800,000 gallons of oil into a Kalamazoo River tributary in 2010 wants to build a new pipeline next to its existing line in Michigan.
Enbridge Energy applied to the Michigan Public Service Commission to build the pipeline, the same line that ruptured. Under the plan, the company said it would deactivate the old line but leave it in place.
The National Transportation Safety Board will discuss its report into the investigation of the causes of the 2010 spill. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released the proposed $3.7-million fine Monday and listed two dozen probable violations connected to the spill and its reporting.
Critics contend the project is an attempt to use the concerns from the 2010 spill to pressure the public service commission to allow the company to build a new, higher capacity line quickly and without the same level of federal oversight that would occur if the entire line, including a section across the St. Clair River into Ontario, ended up replaced in one project.
“This spill is the best thing that could have happened to Enbridge in Michigan,” said attorney Gary Field, of the push to build a replacement pipeline. He is challenging the pipeline company’s efforts on behalf of several affected landowners in the region and also said, “They’re using it to their advantage because it’s urgent now.”
Enbridge said it needs the new line, which would be thicker than the current one and would increase the capacity of the entire line — essentially doubling it along much of the route — to reduce the impact of maintenance on landowners and the environment and to meet forecasted demand for oil in Michigan and nearby states.
The company said it hopes to complete the 285 miles of new pipeline between Griffith, Ind., and Marysville, Mich., by the end of 2013. The company said the $1.3-billion project would create more than 21,900 temporary or permanent construction jobs.
Attorney Field of Okemos said nothing prevents the company from restarting its mothballed pipeline once the new one goes up, allowing for even more oil to flow. A company official said that is not the intent.
“We have no plans to restart that pipeline,” said Joe Martucci, a company spokesman on major projects, although he appeared to acknowledge that plans can change, saying “Never say never.”