Commissioner fights pipeline route

An Ingham County commissioner is seeking the right to intervene with the state in opposition to the proposed route of the new Wolverine gas pipeline.
“Wolverine’s guiding principle,” said Ingham County Commissioner Lisa Dedden, “should be fewer people living near the pipeline and fewer vital resources that we are endangering.”
She, Lansing Mayor David Hollister and officials of the Lansing Board of Water and Light plan to file petitions for “leave to intervene,” allowing them to participate when the Michigan Public Service Commission begins deciding the pipeline’s after a public hearing on Jan 4. If the petitions to intervene are accepted, Dedden, the city and BWL will be given their own chance after the hearing to show why they oppose the project.
Wolverine’s proposed 26-mile pipeline along Interstate 96 cuts through Dedden’s south Lansing district.

Lisa Dedden

“In some areas we’re talking about a residential, densely populated area,” Dedden said. “No matter how safe they claim it will be, you can’t just disregard the location.” Dedden plans to present the Commission with a 2000 census map showing populations along the Interstate to show how many people will be affected.
Hollister and BWL are most worried about small pipe leaks, not easily detected, which could drain into the city’s aquifer. They prefer a different route for the pipeline.
“We are not convinced against that possibility, and we don’t think Wolverine is prepared to handle that problem,” David Wiener, Hollister’s executive assistant said.
But Wolverine officials maintain that the project is the safest and most economical solution to deliver gasoline to Lansing.
“Right now we have tankers driving along that same route, past those same wells,” said Thomas Shields, spokesman for Wolverine. “We feel that those tankers are much more dangerous than a state-of-the-art pipeline.”
Shields maintained that Wolverine is equipped to handle any potential problems. He listed safety measures, including a weekly flight over the route to check for ground discoloration, and 24-hour computer monitoring from Wolverine’s headquarters in Houston. Also, six shutoff valves will be installed along the pipeline, two on either side of Sycamore Creek and two at each crossing of the Grand River. But the valves are roughly seven miles apart and the most populated areas of the route—south Lansing and part of Delta Township—are in between.
Shields added that in case of an accident, Wolverine has worked out a plan with the Ingham County emergency response team and that Wolverine is responsible for any cleanup once an immediate threat is handled.
Despite the safety assurances, Eugene Buckley, Hollister’s opponent in the November election, shares the mayor’s belief that a different route is needed.
“I think it’s a horrible idea,” Buckley said. “You have an accident near Cedar Street and I-96 and it could kill 5,000 people.”
Buckley is also concerned about the proximity of the pipeline to several area schools. Maple Grove, Harley Franks and the Delta Center Elementary schools all sit within a mile of the proposed route.
Although there is disagreement about the location of the pipeline, all sides agree that a new one is needed. The current pipeline through Meridian Township and East Lansing—the only line supplying the region—is 65 years old, and Shields said that Wolverine is unable to transport gas through the line at full capacity because of its age and the fear of leaks.
The new pipeline would deliver 3.1 million gallons of gasoline to the Lansing area, which Shields said would meet the demand created when the Total/Ultra Diamond Shamrock refinery in Alma closed in 1999.
Dedden said that the Jan. 4 public hearing is the last chance for the public to voice its opinion. Wolverine held open houses from Dec 17-20 throughout the area, but fewer than 100 people showed up over four days. Dedden believes that Wolverine’s intent was to give people a chance to air their protests at the open houses rather than the public hearing. She also thinks that Wolverine is trying to rush the process to minimize the opposition.
“If people let this proposal slip past them, it will happen right away, and they will have to deal with it,” Dedden said. “That’s why this public hearing is the best—and last—chance to voice their concerns.”







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