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Critical NTSB report will likely not affect state review of new Enbridge pipeline in Michigan

Federal regulators this week blasted Enbridge Energy for its handling of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.     But the highly critical federal report is unlikely to affect a state review of Enbridge’s plans for a new oil pipeline through Michigan.  

The National Transportation Safety Board criticized Enbridge for not repairing cracking pipes before the break, ignoring alarms during the break and a sloppy response after the break. But apparently, none of that will be considered by the Michigan Public Service Commission as it reviews Enbridge’s plans for a new pipeline.

Judy Palnau is the commission’s spokeswoman. She says a1929 state lawlimits the scope of the commission’s review.

“The PSC’s role in that is limited to siting…..they’ll be looking at the route…and the design and engineering specifications,” said Palnau. She says the issues cited in the NTSB report are federal responsibilities.    

It will be the federal government’s duty to make sure Enbridge operates the new pipeline in a safe manner. That's something this week’s report suggests federal regulators failed to do with the old pipeline.

The Michigan Public Service Commission is expected to make a final decision on Enbridge’s proposed route for its new pipeline by the end of this year or early next year.

Enbridge hopes to get state approval for the new, larger oil pipeline so it can be operational by the fall of 2013. Once the new pipeline is up and running, Line 6B, the pipeline that suffered the catastrophic break in 2010, will be shut down. 6B is currently operating at greatly reduced pressure.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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