A consortium of 55 Great Lakes conservation groups, including Save the Dunes, filed a federal petition Tuesday calling for an end to new tar sands pipeline construction by Enbridge Energy LP until updated safety measures are in place.
"Here in Northwest Indiana, where Enbridge's existing Line 6B is proposed for replacement and upsizing, we do not believe enough has been done to assess our region's safety in shifting from conveying conventional crude to conveying tar sands through the pipe," said Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes.
"We expect the federal government to assure us that moving this dirty oil through our community will be safe. Only strong federal requirements can assure that."
The petition, filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation, targets Enbridge Energy LP's Line 6B project which runs from Griffith to Sarnia, Ontario.
The company plans to build a new pipeline adjacent to the existing pipeline. The existing line will be deactivated, purged, filled with nitrogen and left in place.
In Indiana, the project impacts some 600 property owners.
The National Wildlife Federation, which took the lead in the petition filing, is threatening legal action if the federal agencies don't act to halt construction while reviewing safety standards.
A breach of Line 6B in 2010 sent more than 1 million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The cleanup took more than two years.
Save the Dunes has been pushing for increased regulations at the state and federal level since the project came to their attention last year.
"We didn't know how much of a gap there was in the regulations," Barker said. "This is really starting to coalesce as more and more groups realize how the people they serve may be impacted."
Nathan Pavlovic, land and advocacy specialist for Save the Dunes, said tar sands are different from conventional oil and need separate regulations.
"Current regulations, safety standards and cleanup methods just don't address the unique characteristics of tar sands oil," Pavlovic said.
Jeff Insko, a landowner with Line 6B on his property in Groveland Township, Mich., who maintains a blog on the issue, said more collaboration with land owners and municipal leaders is necessary moving forward.
"Local officials didn't seem to be very interested or know anything other than what Enbridge told them," Insko said. "It's really people at the local level who know their areas best."
Enbridge representatives did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.