INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The leader of Save the Dunes, which is pushing for
greater public scrutiny of Enbridge Inc.’s plans to replace 60 miles of
crude oil pipeline in northern Indiana says the company’s proposal
highlights a need for Indiana to adopt a better public process for vetting
Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes, said the Michigan
City-based group hopes to convince other advocacy groups this fall to push
for changes in next year’s legislative session to address those concerns and
boost state regulatory oversight of pipeline projects.
“That’s something we hope to address at the state level,” Barker said.
“There definitely needs to be far more requirements for public input.”
Enbridge has multiple permit applications pending before Indiana agencies
for its proposal to replace 60 miles of oil pipeline installed in 1969. The
Canadian oil pipeline operator’s project is part of its $1.8 billion,
two-phase replacement of about 285 miles of pipeline in Indiana and
Barker said the public needs to know more about the proposal in light of
recent Enbridge oil pipeline spills, including a July 2010 pipeline rupture
in southwestern Michigan that released 843,000 gallons of heavy crude that
fouled waterways and wetlands.
A different Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Wisconsin in July, spilling about
50,400 gallons of crude into a pasture.
Barker said her not-for-profit group worries that a spill could someday
occur along the proposed new Indiana pipeline near one of the rivers and
streams it will cross that harbor trout and salmon populations. Such a spill
could also impact the lakeside dune ecosystems her group focuses on
protecting because most of those waterways flow into Lake Michigan.
“There’s an immediate concern about protecting the lake, the drinking water
and protecting the dunes as well,” she said.
For its Indiana project, Enbridge wants to replace a four-decade-old,
30-inch pipeline its crews will empty, seal and leave in place.
Enbridge spokesman Joe Martucci said the new pipeline with a diameter of 36
inches will be able to handle a larger flow of crude oil to meet future
demand by the refineries that are its customers.
He said Indiana’s regulatory review of pipeline projects is “pretty
rigorous” but Enbridge hopes to soon obtain all its needed permits and local
“We would hope to complete the Indiana portion by the end of the year.
That’s the goal anyway,” Martucci said.
To date, the only public meeting on the project has been a June open house
in LaPorte that was mostly attended by property owners and where Enbridge
provided handouts on the project, Barker said.
The first public hearing on the project will be held next Thursday by the
state Department of Natural Resources in Valparaiso and focus on eight
rivers and streams with trout or salmon populations the new pipelines will
Barker said Save the Dunes sought that hearing to open public testimony on
DNR spokesman Phil Bloom said next week’s hearing won’t be a discussion of
the Enbridge project, but simply a chance for the public to raise any
concerns they might have about the pipeline’s possible impact on the
“This hearing isn’t a give and take — our folks are there basically to
collect statements from people,” he said.
Two water permit applications for the pipeline project are pending before
the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. No hearings on those
applications are scheduled, but IDEM spokesman Amy Hartsock said the public
can ask the agency to consider arranging one.
Barker said she’s pleased Enbridge has agreed to give a formal presentation
on all aspects of its pipeline project Sept. 6 to a subcommittee of the
Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission in Portage.
Martucci said Enbridge wants to answer any lingering questions about the
project that local environmental groups and business and government
officials might have.
Although the Enbridge pipeline replacement involves a utility
infrastructure, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Danielle
McGrath said the panel does not have jurisdiction over such interstate
She said Indiana law gives the IURC “a small role” that involves passing on
project information from the company to affected landowners. McGrath said
the IURC expects to receive project details and a list of landowners from
Enbridge by late next week.
The crude oil pipeline company Enbridge Energy is seeking to construct
approximately 60 miles of pipeline through Northwest Indiana. The
construction will involve excavating rivers and streams in the Lake Michigan
Watershed, including 10 crossings of the East Branch of the Little Calumet
and its tributaries.
Thursday, August 23 at 4 p.m. in Meeting Room B of the Valparaiso Public
Library, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will hold a public
hearing on the stream crossings, including Deep River, Salt Creek, the East
Branch of the Little Calumet, Coffee Creek, and Reynolds Creek in Northwest
Indiana. Comments will be accepted on the impacts the project will have on
the efficiency and capacity of the floodway; the safety of life or property;
fish, wildlife or botanical resources; and the cumulative effects of the
Thursday, September 6, Enbridge will be presenting details of its planned
construction at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s (NIRPC)
Environmental Management and Policy Committee (EMPC) meeting. The meeting is
at NIPRC offices, 6100 Southport Road, Portage, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.