Industrial Boilers & New Report on Oil and Gas Pipelines

  • The Au Sable River. (Photo courtesy of National Scenic Byways)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency appears to have missed
yesterday’s court-ordered deadline to issue a new rule regulating industrial boilers. There are about 60 boilers in Michigan which provide power for chemical plants and paper mills. As Tracy Samilton reports, the rule is likely to become a political football – when it is issued:

Mike Garfield of the Ecology Center says boilers release lead, mercury, and fine particulates – just like their larger cousins, coal-burning power plants. He says pollution scrubbing equipment on the boilers could save lives.

“The EPA has calculated the new pollution control requirements will prevent nearly 5,000 deaths a year.”

But industry lobbyists said the expense of the equipment will mean lost manufacturing jobs. A group of U.S. Senators says they’re planning to draft a bill to give the EPA more time to improve the rule, so it protects public health without hurting the economy.

For the Environment Report, I’m Tracy Samilton.


This is the Environment Report.

The Anglers of the Au Sable has a new report that details the group’s concerns over oil and gas pipelines in northern Michigan. They’re especially worried about protecting the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers.

Read the report

A related Environment Report story

Enbridge website about the Kalamazoo River spill


John Bebow is with the Anglers group. He says they started investigating pipelines after the major oil spill last summer in the Kalamazoo River. A pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners broke… and spilled more than 800,000 gallons into the river.

“And we quickly determined an even bigger pipeline owned by the same company flows under the Au Sable and its tributaries numerous times.”

That pipeline is called Line 5. It’s the largest oil pipeline in the Midwest… and it goes through the very heart of the Au Sable watershed. The report notes that Line 5 carries as much as 22 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids beneath the Au Sable River every day.

John Bebow calls the Au Sable a world class trout stream. He says if there were an oil spill… it would be devastating.

“The Au Sable River is a major magnet for tourism and recreation. It is a river life up there.”

Bebow says they have serious concerns about a potential oil spill. But he says his group’s been surprised at how responsive Enbridge has been.

He says the company is planning to put in a new remote controlled valve on Line 5 that would help stop the flow of oil into the river in the case of a spill. Bebow says Enbridge is also running mock disaster exercises on Line 5.

The Anglers group also investigated natural gas pipelines in Michigan. They’re worried if there was a big rupture and it ignited, it could start a devastating forest fire. The Anglers report notes that the state of Michigan has just six inspectors to oversee 65,000 miles of pipelines.

Here’s where the Anglers ran into trouble. They wanted to find out the condition of the pipelines in northern Michigan where the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers flow. So, they filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The commission regulates natural gas pipelines within the state.

“They asked us for almost $14,000 in order to fully review all of the natural gas pipelines in northern Michigan. A regulatory agency oughta have their records in a format that wouldn’t require $14,000 of staff time in order to review so they would be publicly available.”

The Anglers group filed a second – more narrowly defined – request. The commission said that would cost $889 dollars. The Anglers group is planning to pay that. But that’s only going to give them a limited picture of the condition of natural gas pipelines.

The report came out on President’s Day – and neither Enbridge nor the Michigan Public Service Commission were reachable for comment.

I’m Rebecca Williams.