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Letter: Why take a chance on precious resources?

Mr. Shamia’s recent letter touting the extraordinary safety concerns Enbridge has for the environment makes me very skeptical. Mr. McFarlane from Aitkin County, in his recent letter, brought up the reasonable suggestion of using double-walled pipes especially around water crossings. When I asked Barry Simonson, an Enbridge representative, at the spring forum held here at the Armory about this very idea, he said Enbridge would not consider using double-walled pipes since that’s not a federal pipeline requirement. He said Enbridge only follows what the federal regulations require.

But Mr Shamia says that they use extra precautions with pipe thickness, whatever that means, plus extra coatings and “other construction techniques” around sensitive water crossings. I suspect that Enbridge will try to get by with only the minimum “construction techniques” and not go above and beyond these unless they are forced to do so.

Mr. Shamia talks about ready access to spills with helicopters based in Bemidji ready to fly people and equipment to spills within minutes. As a retired physician who has worked in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital, I know that planning for worst case scenarios are important. The hospital holds regular disaster drills, for instance. What about a worst case scenario involving a pipeline spill at Hay Creek, for instance, one that occurs during a thunderstorm or a blizzard, at night, when the remote control shutoff valves fail to work? I know from personal experience that helicopters don’t fly during severe weather events. How much oil will be spilled from a crack in the pipe the size of the one in 2010 in Michigan when it’s difficult to access it readily? By the way, the Michigan spill may have been one of the “worst days” in Enbridge’s history but I bet the 4 years of toxic oil cleanup was no picnic for the residents along the river either.

He also forgot to mention the recent (Dec. 17) spill of 57,000 gallons of oil at an Enbridge terminal in Regina, Saskatchewan that forced the closure of a pipeline to the U.S. but maybe such a small amount like that is within their tolerance range.

Friends of the Headwaters believes that there are safer routes for pipelines that don’t involve crossing pristine waters, wild rice lakes, and aquifers in our porous sandy soils. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has also taken this position. We need an Environmental Impact Study regarding oil pipelines—an intensive study of where the safest routes are – and a comprehensive state plan as to where future pipelines should be placed. Why take a chance with our waters, our precious resource?

Maurice Spangler, MD

Park Rapids