States should approve their own rules to protect the Great Lakes basin from oil pollution because federal laws inadequately address the problem, according to a new report written in response to a massive oil spill near Marshall. Grand Rapids Transportation Lawyers and Minneapolis Environmental Lawyers agree.
The report released Monday by the National Wildlife Federation and University of Michigan Law School concluded there's no review of long-term risks related to oil-pipeline routing decisions, and states have a critical opportunity to minimize impact before construction.
The report said stronger rules are needed to prevent spills such as the July 2010 accident that released more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek.
The report's lead author, said on a conference call that she was surprised there is no federal oversight for oil pipeline routes and the federal process focuses only on reducing risk once a pipeline is in an environmentally vulnerable area. Only three Great Lakes states — Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois — require permits for new pipelines.
The report said Michigan's process is comparatively minimal: Applicants propose a pipeline route, and it's typically approved if found to be reasonable, and pipeline companies must minimize physical impact and environmental damage from construction and repair.
By contrast, Minnesota accepts a limited number of proposals and ultimately selects the approved route for the pipeline.
The report also found that Enbridge had no responsibility to report the rupture and spill to Michigan officials, as the state has specifically exempted pipelines from its reporting requirement. Transportation-related facilities are frequently exempted from state requirements for reporting of oil spills.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman said his department looks forward to reviewing the report.
The pipeline that ruptured about 60 miles east of Grand Rapids and caused the spill is operated by Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.
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