A Michigan City-based environmental group has more than 100 signatures for a petition seeking more regulatory scrutiny and public input on a plan from Enbridge Energy Partners LP to replace an aging oil pipeline originating in Northwest Indiana.
Save the Dunes started the online petition last week to call on staff from Enbridge and local, state and federal agencies to organize another meeting to inform the public about the project. Organization officials want as many people to sign the petition as possible.
All Northwest Indiana residents "have a right to know and understand the hazardous liquids that are moving through their communities," Save the Dunes Executive Director Nicole Barker said.
Houston-based Enbridge Energy Partners expects to spend $1.9 billion in a two-phase project to decommission the current pipeline running from a Griffith terminal to Marysville, Mich., and install 285 miles of new pipe adjacent to it. An eight-mile part of the line to Ontario, Canada, partially extends under the surface of the St. Clair River and already has been replaced, Enbridge project spokesman Joe Martucci said.
Martucci said both phases of the project, impacting 60 miles of pipeline in Indiana, could be completed by the end of the year, pending receipt of needed approvals.
The pipeline originally was constructed in 1969. Martucci said the decision on total replacement was made after analyzing the improvements the existing pipe required.
Line 6B is part of the Enbridge's larger Lakehead System, which is the primary transporter of western Canadian crude oil to the United States.
Barker said her group isn't trying to halt the project. However, she said its risks should be adequately addressed following recent spills.
In July 2010, a rupture in Line 6B caused 819,000 gallons of crude oil to be released in wetlands near Marshall, Mich. Enbridge told authorities Friday that more than 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled on land after a separate pipeline rupture in rural central Wisconsin.
Although Enbridge organized a public meeting in LaPorte on the project June 26, only those in the immediate footprint of the pipeline were invited, Barker said. She said another issue is that Indiana doesn't have a clear process to vet the full extent of hazardous liquid pipeline repair and replacement projects.
Martucci, of Enbridge, said there is a "pretty rigorous review" process already established in Indiana that includes gaining approvals or permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and local governments.
He said the company doesn't have any immediate plans to host another public forum in Northwest Indiana on the project, but the company would meet with leadership from Save the Dunes to address issues with the project. Also, the company has been in a consistent dialogue with the organization on project concerns since June, he said.
Save the Dunes has concerns about the decommissioned pipeline being shut down and left in place instead of being extracted from the ground. The organization is also concerned about the project timeline, pipeline route and its potential impact on residents.