Silver Lake Residents File Motion

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Lake Residents File Motion with US Government to Immediately Halt ET Rover Pipeline

By Melinda Baird,

Residents who live on Silver Lake may not have the ability to permanently stop construction of a 42-inch highly-pressurized gas pipeline near their community, but they will do everything in their power not to become – quite literally – entrapped by it.

Silver Lake Property Owners Association board member Wendy Zielen informed fellow residents June 3 of a dangerous and apparently unpermitted turn in direction of the ET Rover pipeline route, and urged residents to immediately call on their federal and state senators and representatives to intervene.

Part of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ interstate mega-pipeline ET Rover, the proposed one-mile pipeline segment east of Dexter-Townhall Road was approved in February by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with the understanding it would follow an existing ITC power line.  But, rather last minute and without notice to residents, the route has moved westward closer to lakefront homes.  If allowed to proceed, the route will encircle by a few hundred feet the 90 residences situated on the northern, eastern and southern shores of Silver Lake in Dexter and Putnam Townships as well as part of the Pinckney State Recreation Area.

This deviation places the 90 residences (up to 400 people during peak season), Silver Lake public beach and Crooked Lake campground (up to 2,000 people during peak season), Post 46 Hunt and Fish Club and a popular children’s summer camp in the pipeline’s buffer corridor.  That means if a poisonous gas leak, fire or explosion were to occur, people between the pipeline and lake would be unable to escape and emergency responders would be unable to enter.

Because the product being transported by the pipeline won’t be scented, residents won’t have due warning of leakage, said Zielen.  In the case of explosions, smaller diameter pipelines have caused 300 to 400-foot high walls of flame – the blast radius reaching about one-half mile comparable to an air-burst of a tactical nuclear missile explosion resulting in a firestorm similar to Hiroshima, according to a 2010 study.

“They call it the buffer corridor when we’re still alive, and then it’s the blast zone when we’re dead,” Zielen noted during the association’s semi-annual meeting.

Partly in response to the unannounced reroute, two grassroots organizations – one from Michigan and the other Ohio – filed with FERC on May 24 a motion to suspend all construction, revoke the certificate it issued allowing ET Rover to proceed, and arrange for further scrutiny of Rover’s adherence to federal environmental policy.

Besides the reroute, which attorneys contend was inadvertently permitted by FERC due to misleading name changes in Energy Transfer’s final documents, the motion addresses a second potential danger:  environmental contamination.  Considering the recent spillage in Ohio of two million gallons of drilling fluid (later discovered to contain diesel fuel), residents are concerned this area could share the same fate.  The spillage occurred while company crews were drilling beneath the Tuscarawas River using the same technique they plan to use under Portage Creek.  This creek empties into Portage Lake, into Huron River and eventually Barton Pond, which is a source of Ann Arbor’s drinking water.

In fact, Energy Transfer was fined $431,000 by the state’s Environmental Protection Agency for the incident, and the federal government in May placed a temporary moratorium on drilling.  That moratorium could be lifted as early as next week, however, given two new commissioners are expected to be appointed to FERC.

Meanwhile, Michigan and Ohio environmental groups submitted a letter June 1 to the Army Corps of Engineers urging it to revoke the blanket authorization it gave Energy Transfer to proceed with horizontal directional drilling under 45 water crossings.  Instead, the groups are asking the federal agency to require individual permits for each crossing.

Energy Transfer’s spokeswoman Alexis Daniels said in an email the company “has followed all of the proper procedures,” and “regarding the inadvertent releases that occurred during our horizontal drilling in Ohio, we are following the approved plans for both drilling and remediation.”

A FERC representative said the agency won’t comment while action is pending.

“People say we can’t do anything, but we can.  We need to join together and say, ‘You can’t entrap us.’  We need to take FERC to task, and we have about a week to do it,” Zielen told residents.

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