Oil company skips environmental assessment of century old pipelines

Plains PipelineTwo 98 year old oil pipelines under the St. Clair river may see an increased workload in the near future.

Plains All American Pipelines is attempting to get permission from the government to push crude oil through the lines.

Environmental groups are questioning Plains’ approach.

Currently the pipelines under the St. Clair river are transporting liquid petroleum. However, Plains would be able to push crude oil through if they get permission through the Presidential Permit process.

Liz Kirkwood is the Executive Director of For Love of Water. She said this permit process is a shortcut around an environmental assessment.

“It is certainly a shortcut for companies to continue to do business, & that’s important of addressing energy needs. The question though is, when we have aging infrastructure that is nearly a century old, should we take a pause and apply greater public scrutiny.”

Kirkwood said the age of these pipelines is a matter of concern.

“These were built and approved by President Woodrow Wilson during the first World War. Now technology obviously has changed dramatically. Age of a pipeline is relevant. It’s not the determining factor as to whether or not it’s more likely to fail than a newer pipeline. But it’s critical in evaluating the risk that the pipeline presents to critical resources like the St. Clair River and the Great Lakes.”

A recent 30-day public comment period passed with what reports say were virtually no comments.

Unless a federal agency such as the EPA takes interest in the pipelines, Kirkwood said, Plains will be able to move ahead without an environmental assessment.