Have you heard about the oil spill – in Michigan?

28 Jul 2010

Kalamazoo River Inlet, Ted Swoboda Photography, Saugatuck, MI

It’s almost unbelievable.  There are plenty of people that wouldn’t have picked Michigan as the next spot for a BP oil spill but yet it’s happened.   16 miles of a river near Battle Creek that flows all the way to Saugatuck and into Lake Michigan has been fouled by an oil spill.  In this case, the spill was from a leak in a 30+ year old 30-inch pipeline.  The pipeline which is reportedly run by a BP affiliate usually carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, was detected Monday and it is estimated that almost 900,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.

While most of us feel like experts given the press coverage of the BP gulf spill, Michigan has its own law, Part 31 of the Michigan Environmental Code and rules which are patterned after, and build on, the federal Clean Water Act.  Certainly, the owners and operators of the pipeline can expect to see some serious enforcement. This is particularly true given the spotlight BP has put itself under and Michigan’s priority on clean water.  When it rains, it pours, I guess.  I’ve seen talk about the federal government “debarring” BP, meaning that, if it happens, the government won’t contract with BP for any reason; the talk shows are raving about how BP has most of the OSHA violations, and now this.   I doubt anyone will cut these folks slack, regardless of the cause of the leak, which is yet to be determined.

Leave a Comment to “Have you heard about the oil spill – in Michigan?”

  1. Neil Kapera 28. Jul, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    Like the Gulf Coast, Michigan’s waters ARE the Life Blood and THE FUTURE of the state.
    We need to come down hard on these polluters now and keep this from re-occurring.
    Michigan needs to take a harder stance than the Federal Government on our Water Quality Standards as well as penalties for violators.

  2. Mark Lichterman 29. Jul, 2010 at 5:30 am #

    I wonder whether the emergency plan filed for this pipeline included procedures for cleaning up oil soaked walruses like the one on file for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

  3. Jeff Pearce 29. Jul, 2010 at 5:38 am #

    One would think there would be sensor’s, automatic shut-off valves, safeguards, etc that would have detected a leak before 900,000 gallons had spilled. Is this another case where investment in safeguards were “delayed” in the interest of profits?

  4. judy franks 29. Jul, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    I am glad to hear that Michigan has tough environmental regulations. The state needs its green economy not only for sustainable reasons, but also to prop up tourism, which since the recent shortcomings of the auto industry, is even more economically critical to the state.

    Your post is an unsettling reminder that spills can happen due to our actions, today. AND, they can also become the result of a 30 year-old pipe. We are not immune from the outcomes of our actions to fuel our oil-addicted ways.

  5. Arthur Siegal 30. Jul, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    All important points folks. Jeff – the question you ask is going to be the question that a lot of plaintiffs’ lawyers are going to be asking – there really is no state regulation of pipelines; it is preempted by federal regulations. I suspect that there are scores of folks going over those regulations even now. I also suspect that older pipelines are “grandfathered” to a certain extent. So, even if a new pipeline might need the sort of sensors and systems you suggest, an older one might not need to be upgraded. In any event, the release itself gives rise to liability.

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