The Keystone XL Pipeline has received most of the press attention and environmentalists’ concern. The Enbridge pipeline should get attention as well. (More)

The Duluth News Tribune‘s headline Stay the course: Enbridge avoids fight in pipeline expansion begins the story.

Enbridge has existing pipelines which they are busy “modifying.” Keystone is asking for permission to build new ones. Turns out that Enbridge is only modifying existing pipelines and so all the US rules and regulations for new pipelines don’t apply.

The Calgary, Alberta, company is proceeding largely unencumbered with plans to spend $8.8 billion in the U.S. to transport greater volumes of petroleum to the Gulf Coast and other markets than TransCanada Corp. would with its Keystone XL project. Rather than building a single new pipeline, Enbridge is replacing smaller, existing pipeline with bigger pipes, adding pumping capacity and installing new supply lines alongside existing ones.

TransCanada’s Keystone XL plan, and its additional 830,000 barrels a day, snagged on the so-called presidential permit process, in which the State Department conducts environmental and other reviews of infrastructure projects that cross American borders.

Enbridge, which runs the longest pipeline system in Canada and the U.S., can proceed without new presidential permits — and the rigorous review they bring — because the company already has permits from the initial construction years ago and because the physical work will take place in the U.S.

Enbridge is Canada’s largest pipeline and energy distribution company. If you click on the link and then click on the “Interactive Asset Map” you will see their existing pipeline structure.

Enbridge also has a history of spills- aka leaking pipelines. In July, 2012 1200 barrels leaked from a pipeline in Grand marsh, Wisconsin. And in July 2010 Enbridge spilled over 1 million gallons of crude oil in the Kalamazoo River.

From the EPA link above regarding Kalamazoo:

Cleanup by the numbers
1,148,413 gallons of oil collected
17.1 million gallons of oil/water collected and disposed
187,302 cubic yards soil/debris disposed

According to recent Public Health Assessments, the Michigan Department of Community Health has concluded that contact with the submerged oil will not cause long-term health effects. At the same time, contact with the submerged oil may cause temporary effects, such as skin irritation.

The health agencies recommend washing skin and clothes with plain soap and water as soon as possible after coming in contact with oil. Stations with cleaning wipes have been set up near kiosks at launch stations to clean skin and boating equipment.

If you Google {Enbridge + Kalamazoo} there are many more stories about how the lack of regulation contributed to the spill that the area is still recovering from. Some home owners were “relocated for their own safety.”

Federal pipeline safety regulators Monday proposed a record $3.7 million civil penalty against Enbridge Energy for a major crude oil spill into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan nearly two years ago.

The July 25, 2010 spill contaminated approximately 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River. Spill responders have recovered 1,150,000 gallons of tar sands oil, and more oil remains in the river.

The violations are related to integrity management, failure to follow operations and maintenance procedures, and reporting and operator qualification requirements.

Over one million gallons of crude oil flowed into Talmadge Creek and then into the Kalamazoo River from the Enbridge Energy pipeline rupture.

“We will hold pipeline operators accountable if they do not follow proper safety procedures to protect the environment and local communities,” pledged U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, announcing the penalty.

The costs of the spill far exceed the penalty, with damage and cleanup costs now in the neighborhood of $750 million.

The NOPV comes as Enbridge has applied to the U.S. government to double the capacity of the same pipeline to accommodate more thick crude oil from Canada’s tar sands.

And here is Enbridge’s and Republicans’ argument against more regulations:

Pipeline companies and trade groups often argue that strong pipeline safety regulations are not necessary because it’s already in their interest to prevent spills, commented the NRDC.

“PHMSA’s investigation shows flaw with this argument,” the NRDC said. “When forced to choose between expensive safety measures and saving money, pipeline operators face strong pressures to make the wrong choice.”

I believe we need to move oil around for a whole variety of reasons. I am not opposed to pipelines but I am opposed to insufficient regulation of them. I have to wonder how much less it would have cost them to do it right and safely the first time. My idea of a day on the river does not include using wet wipes to get oil off my skin to avoid skin irritation.

The Earth is our home not our trashcan.