Oil Pipeline Restart Plan Approved

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Federal regulators said Wednesday they have approved a plan to allow a pipeline that leaked at least 820,000 gallons of oil in southern Michigan this summer to gradually restart.

Under the plan, the gradual restart of the Enbridge Inc. pipeline will be “tightly controlled and closely monitored,” the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in a statement. It wasn’t immediately clear when service on the pipeline running from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, might be restored.

Enbridge said now that the plan has been approved, it will seek the written approval that is required to resume service.

Federal regulators also said they could stop the process at any time if needed on the pipeline that ruptured in late July, sending oil into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich. Cleanup and restoration efforts continue along the spill site.

An independent third party that reports to the federal pipeline safety agency will help monitor the restart. The Canadian company will have to make multiple repairs of defects on the pipeline within 180 days of a restart, and it will have one year to replace a section of dented pipeline running under the St. Clair River.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation to ensure that Enbridge lives up to its promises, they act upon every provision that is required under the restart plan and that they do so safely and on time,” U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari said in a statement.

Calgary-based Enbridge is expected to restart the pipeline at lower pressure than before the accident.

Two safety assessments of the pipeline are expected to be completed within two weeks.

The spill has been the subject of a congressional hearing and politicians said they would watch the restart closely.

“Given the concerns that I and others have expressed about the rupture of the Enbridge pipeline, I believe the Department of Transportation should have given the public and elected officials more time to discuss the just-announced plan to restart the pipeline,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement. “Prudence and caution in any restart should be the order of the day, and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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