The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 17, 2013

Swift approval sought for Midwest oil pipeline

(Continued)

Wayne McReynolds, one of the 55 people who stopped by the open house in Marshall, said he hoped to learn more about the company's plans to prevent construction runoff from flooding valuable farmland. He said he left the event with only vague assurances, not specific answers.

"You never put the soil back in the trench to the same extent it was taken out," said McReynolds, a retired soil and conservation worker. "It can't be done."

Mike Diel of Macon, Mo., said he's had no luck getting Enbridge or the corps to give him specific details about the project, including a precise pipeline map and copies of emergency response plans.

"We're all worried about oil spills and the tar sands getting into the drinking water," Diel said.

"Until I know where the pipeline is going, how am I supposed to know what I'm supposed to be worried about?" he said.

Enbridge spokeswoman Katie Lange said fears about the pipeline's safety are overblown. She described routine aerial patrols of the pipeline and its seven pump stations and round-the-clock computer monitoring in Calgary that "can shut it down from just a touch of a button" if necessary.

"Once the pipeline is in the ground, there's a very rigorous and robust operations and maintenance program," Lange said.

But Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes said those assurances are insufficient, given recent history. A July 2010 rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan dumped an estimated 1 million gallons of the heavier diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River, a 35-mile portion of which remained closed to public access for two years. The U.S. Department of Transportation subsequently fined Enbridge $3.7 million.

More recently, an ExxonMobil pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark., led to the evacuation of 22 homes and further scrutiny of the long-distance transportation of tar sands oil, a denser substance that is more difficult to clean up.

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