Enbridge Energy Co.'s plan to build a new $1.9 billion pipeline across northern Indiana and Michigan is drawing considerable interest. It should draw applause as well.
The company plans to replace the existing 30-inch crude oil and liquid petroleum pipeline from Griffith to Stockbridge, Mich., with a 36-inch pipeline. The 30-inch pipeline, built in the 1960s, would be left in place, cleaned out and sealed, after the new pipeline becomes operational.
What has brought so much public attention to this project is the need to expand the easement through people's yards and fields. "The easement is getting full," Enbridge project director Thomas Hodge said, so Enbridge is asking property owners for an additional 25 feet. That extra room improves safety when digging up pipelines and keeps structures from being built near a pipeline that otherwise could be right on the edge of the existing easement.
Building the new pipeline will create more than 1,000 temporary and permanent jobs, a big plus in itself, but it also means improved safety. Installing a new pipeline means less maintenance, so there would be fewer disruptions to property owners.
Hodge hopes contractors will begin work in May, with ground broken in June, after the necessary permits have been obtained.
The company should be commended for recognizing the need for a new pipeline, to both minimize the danger of leaks and to increase the flow capacity. This is a necessary project, and public input -- which Enbridge has sought out and is receiving -- is essential.
Enbridge is willing to work with independent environmental monitors, Hodge said. "We have had them on many other jobs," he said. "If (the Indiana Department of Environmental Management) makes that request, we have no plans to fight it."
That's a request environmentalists and community activists have made, and it's a reasonable precaution for IDEM to require.
This is not the Keystone XL pipeline, but a smaller project with major economic and environmental potential. The newer pipeline will greatly reduce the potential for leaks.
Regulators and Enbridge should work together to minimize environmental risks while speeding construction of this project.