Greens Challenge Fed Pipeline Spill Plans

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(CN) – The National Wildlife Federation is challenging the federal government’s approval of plans to deal with oil pipeline spills in Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada.

The NWF sued the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in federal court in Detroit on Thursday.

In 2015, federal regulators approved two response plans submitted by Enbridge Inc. for the Line 5 pipeline, which extends on land and under water.

Line 5 extends from Superior, Wisconsin, through the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan before terminating in Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipeline is 641 miles long and carries up to 22.7 million gallons of oil and natural gas per day, according to the wildlife federation.

Enbridge was required to submit the plans under the Clean Water Act, but the federation claims that the federal agencies did not examine the relevant data and failed to determine that the plans for the onshore and offshore pipelines complied with the Act.

In addition, the federation asserts the federal agencies’ approval of the plans violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

According to the lawsuit, “the [Transportation] Secretary for the first time subdelegated his nondiscretionary duties with respect to response plans for offshore pipelines to PHMSA” last August.

Over the last 15 years, according to the lawsuit, “pipelines owned or operated by Enbridge and related entities spilled or leaked on over 1,000 occasions and discharged more than five million gallons into the environment.”

A dozen endangered species could be affected in the event of a Line 5 spill, according to the federation. They include Hine’s emerald dragonfly, Hungerford’s crawling water beetle, the Northern long-eared bat and the Snuffox mussel.

“Before approving the two response plans submitted by Enbridge for the offshore and onshore pipelines making up Line 5, PHMSA and the Secretary failed to prepare an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) or otherwise comply with the requirements of NEPA or its implementing regulations,” the federation stated.

The federation is asking the federal court for a declaration that the plan approvals were unlawful, as well as an injunction compelling the defendants to complete an EIS before approving the plans.

The Washington-based federation claims more than 690,000 members.

“NWF’s mission is to unite all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world,” the federation stated. “NWF’s mission includes protecting wildlife, navigable waters and other natural resources from the impacts of oil spills.”

The NWF says it has standing to sue because it has members who live in the vicinity of Line 5 “near the St. Clair River or the Straits of Mackinac.”

The federation is represented by Neil Kagan of its Ann Arbor, Michigan office.

Representatives of the defendant federal agencies did not immediately respond to an email request for comments.