oil pipeline

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate votes tonight on a bill to authorize the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved legislation to authorize the pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from the Canadian prairie to the Gulf of Mexico through the American heartland.   

One group in Michigan is paying close attention to the vote.

Oil is flowing through Enbridge’s new pipeline in southern Michigan, but people who live along the pipeline say the job isn’t done yet.

Enbridge’s new Line 6B pipeline is in the ground and in service.  It runs for 285 miles across the state from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan.

The company installed this new pipeline after their old pipeline burst and caused a massive oil spill in 2010.

To replace it, they had to cut down trees and tear up people’s land. Enbridge has hired contractors to restore those properties in phases.

But some landowners in the first phase of the project say they’re still waiting for work to be wrapped up.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Michigan Radio's MI Curious project puts our journalists to work for you: We investigate questions you submit about our state and its people.

One of the MI Curious questions was submitted by listener Justin Cross from Delton, Michigan. He asked: "What's the status of the Enbridge pipeline in the bottom of Lake Michigan running through the Straits of Mackinac?"

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush has been working to find an answer to the question. Brush says what he found is that Enbridge holds all the cards. The company is willing to talk, and they are aware of people's concerns. 

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Radio's M I Curious is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Justin Cross asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It wasn’t the real thing, but federal and state agencies joined with local groups to respond to a mock oil spill in northern Michigan today.

“That boom is to keep out any oil from coming on this side,” one of the coordinators told reporters, as he pointed at crews lowering pillow-like yellow floaters into the Indian River. 

The booms were deployed just downstream from where an oil pipeline has sprung a make-believe leak.  A short distance away, officials from a variety of agencies manned a full command center, organizing the response in the mock disaster drill. 

Enbridge Energy oil spill
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. But there’s another company working to bring more tar sands oil into the U.S.

Enbridge Energy wants to increase the amount of heavy crude oil crossing the border from the Alberta tar sands into the Great Lakes region.

Lorraine Little is with Enbridge. She says Enbridge wants to move more oil on its pipeline known as the Alberta Clipper. That pipeline runs about a thousand miles from northern Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

“Its purpose is to carry heavy crude oil from the oil sands in Alberta into our Superior terminal where then it can get off on other pipelines and serve refining markets around the Midwest region or other parts of the country,” she says.

Back in November of 2012, Enbridge filed an application with the U.S. State Department. The company wants to raise the capacity of the border segment of the Alberta Clipper pipeline to 800,000 barrels per day (they're currently transporting 450,000 barrels per day).

That permit is still under review.

A section of new pipeline for Enbridge's line 6B.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

"Here we go again."

That's what some in Michigan are undoubtedly thinking as they learn of a proposed natural gas pipeline that could run through Michigan on its way to Ontario, Canada.

The proposed Rover Pipeline would carry natural gas through about 180 miles of Michigan. Some of it would track the very same route as the controversial Enbridge 6B oil pipeline that was recently replaced.

Keith Metheny is a reporter with the Detroit Free Press.

Metheny said the pipes will take natural gas from areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio and ship it westward into Michigan, through the southeast corner, spanning through six counties, and ending up in a hub in Ontario for distribution. The pipeline might follow a portion of the 6B route, around Oakland, Macomb, and St. Clair counties and possibly others.

“It’s going to be the very same people, the very same route, the people who saw their backyards torn up for a year, the people who occasionally had their roads inaccessible,” Metheny said.

Metheny said this pipeline would be large, 42 inches in diameter that will transfer more than 3 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

“In the highest gas demand day ever for Consumers Energy, which was in January 2013, they pushed out less natural gas across the entire state of Michigan than the amount that would pass through this pipeline every day,” Metheny said.

He added that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will determine if the pipes go down, but a decision may not be made until 2015.

Energy Transfer will hold a series of public meetings along the path of the proposed Rover Pipeline.

There will be a meeting this evening in Chelsea at 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Comfort Inn Village Conference Center on Commerce Park Drive in Chelsea. And there's a meeting tonight in Richmond at the Lois Wagner Memorial Library, again, from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm.

*Listen to full story above. 

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new government task force has been created to review the safety of Michigan's pipelines.

DEQ Director Dan Wyant and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will co-chair.

Formal oversight for interstate gas and oil pipelines comes from the federal government, but states are not required to do their own management.

Carl Weimer is executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. He said Michigan needs state oversight of its increasing number of pipelines.

epaabuse.com

The two sides of the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline are stepping up their campaigns.

For six years, the Obama administration has been reviewing the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil south from the Canadian border to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By the end of the month, Enbridge’s new oil pipeline through Michigan may be in operation.

Enbridge has built a nearly 300 mile pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Ortonville, Michigan.

The pipeline will eventually transport 500,000 barrels of oil a day or about twice as much as the pipeline it’s replacing.

The old pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling about a million gallons of Canadian Tar Sands Oil. The cleanup of the Kalamazoo River continues.

Randy Knauf / Creative Commons

A new state law encourages oil companies to go back to oil wells that are considered tapped out and extract more oil.

So-called “enhanced recovery projects” are relatively new in Michigan. In fact, there’s only one company that’s using the technique.

The process recycles carbon dioxide that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere and pumps it down into existing oil wells. The pressure forces more oil to the surface. Proponents say the process makes better use of existing oil wells because the oil couldn’t be recovered without the technique.

Ross Field

A judge has sentenced a trio of environmental activists to probation for their role in an oil pipeline protest near Stockbridge last July.

The protesters attached themselves to heavy equipment at the Enbridge pipeline work site.  They were convicted of trespassing and obstruction in January. 

The protesters could have faced up to two years in prison.

Protester Vicci Hamlin says she remains committed to the fight against Canadian tar sands oil. 

“I think that the more people that risk going to jail the more that things will change,” says Hamlin.

A trio of environmental activists will find out this week whether they will face prison time for a 2013 protest.

The three women were convicted in January of trespassing and obstruction charges. They and a fourth member of the group Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands attached themselves to heavy machinery to protest the installation of a new oil pipeline near Stockbridge.

The four did not detach themselves after being ordered to by law enforcement officers during the 2013 incident.

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

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An Ingham County jury today convicted a trio of environmentalists on charges related to a 2013 protest. 

Last July, the protesters attached themselves to equipment at an Enbridge oil pipeline construction site near Stockbridge.  The protesters are opposed to the shipment of Canadian tar sands oil through Michigan.

They were charged with trespassing and obstruction after staying put after officers told them to leave.   

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Federal regulators are overseeing the installation of an oil pipeline after an accident last week near Ceresco.

It’s hard for Dave Gallagher not to watch the work. The pipeline is going in just 12 feet behind his house.

“Yeah they’re really scrutinizing that pipe now. There’s like 10 people down there,” Gallagher said, watching from his back porch Wednesday afternoon.

Toyota

Emergency unemployment benefits and senatorial "jitters" over an Enbridge oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac: Both are issues consuming attention from Michigan's congressional delegation.

More than a week ago, a federal unemployment benefits program expired, leaving 1.3 million jobless Americans without aid. Some 45,000 of them are here in Michigan.

The program is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. In Michigan, the EUC added 36 more weeks to the state's regular 20 weeks of benefits.

On Capitol Hill today, Democrats are trying to pressure House Republicans to extend the program for three more months.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to ease concerns over an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Detroit Free Press Washington reporter Todd Spangler joins us now to tell us more about these issues.

Listen to the full interview above.

Three U.S. senators want a federal agency to check on the safety of an oil pipeline that runs beneath Great Lakes waters.

The 60-year-old pipeline passes beneath the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. It was the first pipeline Enbridge built through Michigan.

Environmentalists protested the pipeline expansion earlier this year. They sent divers down to check out the condition of the pipeline firsthand.

Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan want the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to provide details of the agency’s safety tests on the line. PHMSA is a division of the Department of Transportation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

A new oil pipeline is going underground in Michigan.

Enbridge Energy says this new pipeline will be bigger (36 inches vs. 30 inches) - it will pump more oil to the Marathon refinery in Detroit - and they say the pipeline will be safer. (The map in the slideshow above shows where the new line is going in.)

It now appears even less likely Enbridge Energy will meet a federal deadline to dredge oil from the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup is related to the company’s 2010 pipeline spill.

Enbridge wanted special permission from Comstock Township to build a dredge pad, a place to process the waste and truck it to a nearby landfill.

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