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Lawsuit Seeks Study of Enbridge Pipeline

PHOTO: People come from around the country to enjoy Michigan's Au Sable River, which is why one group wants the federal government to study the potential risks of a 60-year-old oil pipeline that runs beneath it. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: People come from around the country to enjoy Michigan's Au Sable River, which is why one group wants the federal government to study the potential risks of a 60-year-old oil pipeline that runs beneath it. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
January 16, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - How do you know it's safe if you've never studied it? That's the question environmental advocates want answered in response to the government's decision to allow oil to flow through an old pipeline under some of the state's most pristine areas.

The Enbridge Energy pipeline runs across the Upper Peninsula, under the Straits of Mackinac and through the Lower Peninsula. It's been more than 60 years since the line was built - and in all those years, said Marvin Roberson, a forest ecologist with the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, there's never been an environmental risk study by any federal or state agency.

"As we saw a couple years ago on the Kalamazoo River, oil pipeline ruptures near rivers can be a very bad thing," he said. "Given the fact that it was built in 1953, it was built prior to the advent of environmental laws."

Every 30 years, Enbridge must have its permit reissued to continue pumping oil through the line. That permit recently was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Sierra Club now is suing the federal government in hopes of getting an order to study the pipeline's impact.

In July 2010, a pipeline operated by Enbridge burst and flowed into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, resulting in the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. Roberson said he feels all concerned parties need to do whatever is necessary to prevent that from happening again.

"The pipeline segment in question that's getting the permit runs underneath the Au Sable River, which is, of course, one of the nation's premiere trout streams," he said, "and a spill underneath the Au Sable River would be just devastating."

The pipeline at the center of the lawsuit runs through national forest land, which is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in charge of issuing permits.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI