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Letter: Pipeline not worth the chance

I am opposed to the route of the Enbridge-Sandpiper oil pipeline as it is currently proposed. Our lakes and rivers are among the cleanest in the state and our aquifers, while compromised with nitrates, are still drinkable. Enbridge touts an excellent safety record with respect to oil spills but the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says there have been 23 major oil spills in Minnesota since 1972 on Enbridge-controlled pipelines.

A more flagrant example of Enbridge incompetence occurred in 2010 when they caused a huge oil spill in a river near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated this and described the Enbridge approach as “Keystone Kops” in nature. Their employees who were monitoring for drops in pipeline pressure as first signs of a spill interpreted the pressure drops they found as simply being a call for increasing the pressure in the line. This resulted in a spill that lasted 17 hours and which will probably not ever be entirely cleaned up. The 30 miles of river that were despoiled is longer than the distance from Hay Creek, where the Sandpiper line is proposed to cross, to Park Rapids. An Enbridge representative at the Armory meeting said they could not guarantee that there would not be a leak into Hay Creek. This means that a spill into Hay Creek could happen. (Interestingly, they do not mention this Kalamazoo disaster in their environmental safety brochures that were handed out in the recent public meeting at the Armory in Park Rapids.)

How interested is Enbridge in advancing safety considerations regarding oil spills?

Double-hulled oil tanker ships are now used after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and double-hulled rail tank cars are safer than single-hulled ones. When I asked one of the Enbridge representatives at the recent public meeting whether Enbridge is researching other advanced technology such as double-hulled pipelines to reduce the severity of spills he said they will not consider this since their design plans meet the federal standards for single-hulled lines. In other words, Enbridge is unwilling to do anything beyond meeting the minimum federal standards for materials and construction of this pipeline in order to protect some of Minnesota’s most pristine yet highly vulnerable surface and ground waters in our region. We should remember that it is pipelines that have been designed to meet minimum federal standards that have spilled and leaked so much oil in Michigan and here in Minnesota.

We all need oil but it’s not worth it to take a chance on ruining our lakes, aquifers, our local food based farms and industry and our tourism business with an oil spill that can be prevented by routing this pipeline through their existing northern routes, along the I-94 corridor, or by shipping oil via safer, double-hulled rail cars. I believe that our extraordinarily valuable and extraordinarily vulnerable lakes, streams and aquifers justify extraordinary precautions.

Maurice Spangler, MD

Park Rapids