Almost two months after a ruptured pipeline sent at least 210,000 gallons of oil flowing through a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark., the line's owner—oil giant ExxonMobil—remains largely silent on the future of its failed pipeline.
Most of the visible oil has been removed from the neighborhood and the ruptured section of pipe has been replaced and reburied. Yet Exxon hasn't asked the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for permission to restart the 850-mile Pegasus line, which runs across four states from Patoka, Ill. to Nederland, Texas.
A company spokesman said Exxon is simply being thorough and cautious.
Utah officials have given a Canadian company the green light to begin mining oil sands on a remote plateau in Eastern Utah without first obtaining a pollution permit or monitoring groundwater quality, an action that sets the stage for a possible court battle over the fragile region.
The board of the Utah Division of Water Quality agreed with Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands' contention that there was little or no water in the area of the company's proposed mine site and affirmed the agency's earlier decision not to require the permits or monitoring.
The board's 9-2 vote Wednesday caps years of wrangling with the water agency over U.S. Oil Sands' proposal to open the first large-scale oil sands mine in the United States in the Book Cliffs, an area renowned for its abundant wildlife but also dotted with occasional oil and gas wells.
Story updated on Oct. 23 at 11:30 a.m. ET to include comments from Brandon Township.
A federal judge in Michigan has postponed a hearing to decide whether a Canadian company should be blocked from further work on a project to replace an aging oil pipeline until the company complies with state and local regulations.
The continuance came yesterday after a brief hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in which the judge asked for clarification about whether the group seeking the injunction against Enbridge Inc. could legally ask for an order to halt to the billion-dollar project.
The nonprofit organization—Protect Our Land And Rights (POLAR)—sought the order when it determined that Enbridge had failed to obtain permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and from three counties where Enbridge has begun work on its new line 6B.
Story updated on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. EDT to include comments from Enbridge.
Two aging oil and natural gas pipelines running under the sparkling waters of the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan are time bombs that could devastate the upper Great Lakes if they rupture, according to a report issued today by the National Wildlife Federation.
The pipelines are owned by Enbridge Inc. and carry an estimated 20 million gallons of oil and natural gas every day under the pristine water from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The company announced in May that it plans to increase the volume of oil it pumps through the lines, a proposal the federation says could strain the 59-year-old pipes to the breaking point.
The federation worries that Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history that fouled the Kalamazoo River two years ago, has not properly maintained the pipelines and is not prepared to respond quickly in case of a leak.
"We should take whatever precautions necessary to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill that would rival the BP spill," Andy Buchsbaum, the federation's Great Lakes Regional executive director said during a news conference Thursday to announce the release of the report.
At first, Katy Bodenmiller was dumbfounded by the response from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a two-term Michigan Democrat.
Bodenmiller had written to Stabenow in early July asking why the senator and other Michigan officials hadn't weighed in on a plan by Enbridge Inc., a Canadian pipeline operator, to replace oil pipeline 6B, which slices across 210 miles of southern Michigan and through Bodenmiller's two-acre property.
Bodenmiller suggested to Stabenow that the project deserved extra oversight because Enbridge was responsible for a catastrophic rupture on 6B in 2010, which sent more than a million gallons of heavy crude oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River. Bodenmiller hoped to open a discussion with the senator about Enbridge's "disrespect" of landowners along the line.
But to Bodenmiller's astonishment, the boilerplate letter she received from Stabenow began: "Thank you for contacting me about the Keystone XL pipeline."
The hidden, long-term effects of the 2010 pipeline accident that spilled more than a million gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River became public last week when the EPA revealed that large amounts of oil are still accumulating in three areas of the river.
The problem is so serious that the EPA is asking Enbridge Inc., the Canadian pipeline operator, to dredge approximately 100 acres of the river. During the original cleanup effort, dredging was limited to just 25 acres because the EPA wanted to avoid destroying the river's natural ecology. The additional work could take up to a year and add tens of millions of dollars to a cleanup that has already cost Enbridge $809 million.
The EPA notified Enbridge of its proposed order on Oct. 3, saying the additional clean-up is "critical" and the work "should be conducted in an expeditious manner" to remove the oil before it recontaminates the river.
"The increased accumulation demonstrates that submerged oil is mobile and migrating, evidencing that submerged oil removal is warranted to prevent downstream migration ... ," Ralph Dollhopf, the EPA's on-scene coordinator and Incident Commander, said in the letter notifying Enbridge of the agency's findings.
Ken Weathers doesn't see himself in the role of David versus the giant Enbridge Inc.
Yet he is.
The 66-year-old Detroit Edison retiree is among a handful of Michigan residents who have won court victories in the last few weeks against Canada's biggest pipeline company over attempts to condemn their land for an oil pipeline, called Line 6B.
Enbridge is beginning to replace the aging pipeline and has filed condemnation cases against nearly 80 landowners along the pipe's first 50 miles. The legal action is a last resort for Enbridge and follows months of often contentious and unsuccessful negotiations with landowners to reach an agreement for the land.
The company also is the target of a pair lawsuits by groups determined to shut down the entire 210-mile 6B replacement project.
The fierce resistance and legal delays Enbridge is encountering over Line 6B are extraordinary, said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Bellingham, Wash.
The debate over whether oil sands mining should be allowed in Utah inched forward this week when an environmental group and the company that wants to open the mine both filed papers responding to a judge's recent ruling on whether water resources will be adequately protected.
Administrative Law Judge Sandra Allen ruled on Aug. 28 that the Utah Division of Water Quality acted legally when it decided that U.S. Oil Sands Inc. should not have to conduct water monitoring or obtain a pollution permit to begin mining on Utah's Colorado plateau, an arid region dotted with oil and gas wells and used by hikers and hunters.
On Wednesday Living Rivers, a Moab, Utah-based environmental organization, submitted a 22-page brief arguing that the judge erred when she determined that the only water deserving of protection is found in deep aquifers and that there is so little water close to the surface that it does not qualify for protection under Utah law.
Rob Dubuc, a staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates, which is supporting Living Rivers' efforts to halt the project, said all that's needed to settle the issue is to look around the mine site and the entire Colorado plateau.
The notice that arrived at Debbie and David Hense's home last September didn't seem especially alarming. Enbridge Inc. was going to replace Line 6B, the oil pipeline that leaked more than a million gallons of heavy crude into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010. Since 6B runs through the Henses' 22-acre property near Fenton, Mich., some of the construction would be done there.
What the Henses didn't know, however, was that Enbridge intended to take an additional swath of their land for the pipeline—and there was little they or any of the other landowners who lived along the 210-mile route could do to stop it.
In addition to the existing 60-foot easement Enbridge already has through the Henses' property, the company wants another 25 feet—about the width of a two-lane highway—for the new pipeline. It also wants a temporary 60-foot easement for a work area.
For the Henses, this means the loss of a century-old stand of trees. In Oceola Township, Beth Duman will lose part of her back deck. In the town of Howell, Peter Baldwin will lose a section of the nature preserve he has nurtured for decades.
Today the Henses and other angry residents have become unlikely activists, determined to at least have a voice in the $1.3 billion replacement project.
(This story has been updated to add comments by Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality.)
An administrative law judge in Salt Lake City has ruled against two environmental organizations that are trying to block a Canadian company's plan to open the first large-scale oil sands mine in the United States.
Judge Sandra Allen sided with U.S. Oil Sands and Utah's Division of Water Quality in deciding that the state rightfully granted the Calgary-based company permission to mine and process oils sands without requiring a pollution permit or water monitoring at the PR Spring mining site in eastern Utah.
The judge agreed with the Water Quality Division's opinion that there is so little ground water within 1,500 feet of the surface of the proposed mine that additional safeguards weren't needed.
"Substantial evidence . . . supports a finding that ground water has not been located and may be assumed absent in the project area except for a deep regional aquifer," Allen said in her 40-page recommendation released Tuesday afternoon.
"The PR Spring facility and operations will have no more than a de minimis (minimal) actual or potential effect on ground water quality."