This one is a bit of a head scratcher and we’d like to get to the bottom of it:

The Gary, Indiana Post-Tribune reported this week that, apparently, Enbridge

has agreed to increase the thickness of the pipe throughout [Lake County, Indiana] instead of just at the drains it must run under, according to Surveyor George Van Til. “We are very pleased about that,” Van Til said.  

This way of putting it makes it appear that Enbridge has voluntarily agreed to alter its design in response to the concerns of local officials. If that’s true, this would be extraordinary and, in our view, very big news– especially since Enbridge has refused to make any such adjustments here in Michigan. In fact, they always insist, as VP Mark Sitek did to me just this week, that it is unrealistic for local municipalities (like Brandon Township) to dictate things like pipeline wall thicknesses, which (they remind us over and over and over) are regulated at the federal level.

So we’re scratching our heads a bit, especially since the remarks from Enbridge in the same article only increase the ambiguity:

Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, confirmed Enbridge will use a pipeline with walls of at least .5 inch throughout Lake County with it increasing in thickness to .625 inches near wetlands and under drains to address safety concerns raised by officials. The current pipelinehas walls measuring .25 inch. “With 100 percent increased wall thickness and a 35 percent increase in the steel strength of the pipe to be used, it increases the pipeline’s ability to withstand external and internal stresses,” Smith said.

Now we know that the things Jennifer Smith says about Enbridge’s activities can’t necessarily be trusted (and we’d just ask her for some clarity, but she won’t return our emails). But Smith seems to be suggesting that .5 inch thickness was the plan all along– in which case none of this is a big deal. After all, one would hope that a brand new twenty-first century pipe would be significantly better than a 40 year old one!

Perhaps one of our pipeline specification savvy engineer-type readers (yeah, we’re looking at you Robert Whitesides) will have some insight. Meantime, we’ll try to get some answers.