Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Sunday Paper: August 1, 2010

Boomtown Battle Creek. As of Friday, 25,000 feet of boom had been deployed at 26 different sites, and plans were to add 10 more sites by today. A special shout-out of thanks goes out to the grunts in the field, working up close and personal with this stuff - sounds like they are making good progress, although plenty of cleanup still remains.

August already. Where does the time go? Some oil spill update stories for you this morning:

  • The spill is now being characterized as "contained", as crews have reached the break and found that no more oil is leaking out. Enbridge VP Steve Wuori says "it is highly unlikely there is any other break in the pipe" other than the one that was exposed. The section will be removed and sent to the National Transportation Safety Board lab for testing.

  • More reports are surfacing on how the Feds have been warning Enbridge for months to improve their pipeline safety. A time line released Saturday by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration showed that Enbridge last year discovered 250 imperfections with the line "that eventually would rupture". The company has fixed 35 of them, so, only 215 potential spots for rupture remain. That's comforting. Go read that story for all the evasive details.

  • The EPA has rejected the Enbridge plan for clean-up, saying that "technical information was missing and in other cases the plans were too general" and the overall it was "deficient". The company has until Monday to re-submit, which they said they will.

  • Here come the lawsuits. The first federal class-action was filed on Friday, intended to represent "all residents" who have been affected by the spill. A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall at 800 Michigan Ave. in Marshall if you want to sign-on or get more information.

  • What did Enbridge know, and when did Enbridge know it? That is the question.

    Government logs show Enbridge Energy Partners reported crude oil spilling into a creek that leads to the Kalamazoo River at 1:33 p.m. Monday -- several hours after discovering the pipeline rupture and about 16 hours after Marshall-area fire departments received two calls complaining about a natural gas smell.

    And here is where it gets weird. Both the Marshall Fire Department and the Marshall Township Fire Department received calls about the smell in the air around 9:30 - 10:00 PM Sunday night...

    Mike Rae, chairman of the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners, told the Free Press on Friday that responding firefighters talked to an Enbridge employee Sunday, who said the smell was coming from a tank belonging to another oil company. Rae declined to elaborate on how he obtained the information but said, "I'll swear by it."

    Enbridge denied any worker was on the scene Sunday. Daniel, the CEO, also denied reports of an Enbridge truck at the oil leak site that night. He said Enbridge has confirmed that a truck of "very similar color and markings" to Enbridge was seen Sunday, but it was not the company's. He declined to elaborate.

    "That wasn't our tank, that wasn't our worker, and that wasn't our truck". Ooookay...

    At 9:45 AM Monday morning, Enbridge logged the leak. At 11:30, they confirmed it. Called it in to the Feds at 1 PM in the afternoon (lunch?), saying they had to quantify the leak before they could report it. And then they claim they were put on hold for thirty minutes. Ooookay... gee, seems they have an excuse for everything, doesn't it?

    Yeah. I think we're going to need to be doin' some investigatin' here...

  • Congressman Mark Schauer seems to think so as well, and announced the launch of that formal investigation on Saturday.

    Today Congressman Mark Schauer (D-MI) announced that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be launching a formal investigation into the Enbridge oil spill. After discussing the leak with subcommittee leaders yesterday, Chairwoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Vice Chairman Tim Walz (D-MN) agreed to conduct hearings when Congress returns in September. The investigation will be conducted by the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. Schauer is a member of the panel, which oversees the nation's network of oil and gas pipelines.

    "Enbridge needs to answer some tough questions about how this happened, and I plan to hold them fully accountable," said Schauer. "Moreover, we need to learn why the federal agency that oversees oil pipelines failed to notify Congress about its concerns related to corrosion on Enbridge's Lakehead System. The company’s failure to report the incident in a timely manner put public safety at risk, and we need to make sure something like this doesn't happen again."

    Schauer has introduced new legislation that will require notification of a pipeline accident within a certain time frame, and if you miss it, pay the price. Three Michigan House Republicans (Ehlers, Miller and Upton) have thrown their names on the bill as well.

  • Speaking of slow responses, what took you so long to say something? Forget you have a day job? Couldn't find the political angle needed to turn this into a wedge issue? Just another day in the Theater of the Absurd. Love how some of these guys want to tell us that they are the ones to fix our problems while they are ignoring their current duties in elected office.

  • The Freep takes an in-depth look at pipeline regulations this morning, and then runs an editorial that calls for more state oversight on the aging pipes that run beneath our feet. They also want someone appointed to stay on top of Enbridge to make sure they clean up this mess.

    Those are excellent ideas, and of course they should be done. So, perhaps next time some candidate for office suggests we have to "cut spending and regulations" at the state level, the Freep will stand right up, point it out, and refuse to endorse that person. No? Then please, stop complaining after the fact; on this, on other important issues too. Getting tired of newspapers that indulge the fantasies of the drown government crowd, and then turn around and clamor for the government to prevent and/or fix these problems. There is no free lunch. Important oversight like this is considered "spending", and you can't have it both ways.

  • For some peace of mind, always remember that nature bats last. Experts tell us that "one day, the river will be thriving again", but when that time will come, no one knows. Years at best. The area will lose fish, birds, animals, and "organisms lower on the food chain" such as bugs and rare mussels for the time being, and concerns are that it is going to be very difficult to clean the thick vegetation in the area - but eventually, it will bounce back. As long as we stop this from happening again, that is.

    And on that note, we now return you to the toxic sludge that is this election season, spilling all over a TV near you at this very moment...