Court: Pipeline needs Lansing OK
By Christine MacDonald

Lansing (MI) State Journal
7 June 2003

Wolverine officials may appeal to keep gasoline project going

Wolverine Pipe Line Co. must get city approval to build a 26-mile gasoline pipeline through south Lansing, the state Court of Appeals has ruled in a case that could affect public utilities statewide. City officials, who have spent more than $110,000 fighting the proposed pipeline for nearly two years, called the ruling a win.

"It is a strike in favor of local governments," City Attorney Jim Smiertka said. "Local communities can decide what they want going through their communities."

Wolverine officials said they are considering an appeal. In the meantime, they will keep trying to get the city's clearance to build the 12-inch, $45 million pipeline on state land along Interstate 96.

"Hopefully they will go with the decision of every other regulatory department and township," said Tom Shields, the company's spokesman. "Everyone else has agreed this is the safest option."

The company had hoped to start construction last spring.

The city already has denied Wolverine's request. In August, the City Council voted 7-1 to withhold permission for the pipeline.

The city argues it is a risk to the area's water supply and nearby residents. In August, the city appealed the state's approval of the project to the Court of Appeals.

Wolverine says the pipeline is safe and would provide more gasoline to area stations, keeping prices down for motorists. It would pump nearly 3 million gallons of gasoline a day through the area.

Friday's ruling means a public utility must get the consent of the local community when going through public property, such as along a road, under a bridge or a park, Smiertka said.

Smiertka and Shields said that could affect public utilities, such as the Lansing Board of Water and Light and Consumers Energy.

But John Norris, an oil and gas attorney who is not affiliated with Wolverine, said he believes the ruling is more of a technical victory for the city.

The ruling said the city couldn't be "unreasonable" in denying the project and said the Michigan Public Service Commission did its job when it approved the pipeline in June 2002.

Norris, of Bloomfield Hills, said Wolverine could argue the city would be "arbitrary and unreasonable in denying consent."

Lansing resident Treveire Wilson hopes the ruling holds up. He lives on Fisher Drive along I-96 where the pipeline would run.

"There is a big potential for accidents," the father of two said. "That is always a concern."

Many fear a situation similar to Wolverine's accident in June 2000, when 75,000 gallons of gasoline leaked north of Jackson. Nearly 600 homes and businesses were evacuated.

The new pipeline would replace a 65-year-old smaller one running under parts of Meridian Township and East Lansing.

The five other municipalities the pipeline would run through in the currently proposed route have given Wolverine the go- ahead. They are Alaiedon, Delhi, Delta, Windsor and Watertown townships.

Lansing also is appealing the Department of Environmental Quality's decision to grant Wolverine a permit to cross wetlands and 11 flood plains. An administrative law judge is set to hear the case on Aug. 11.

Smiertka said he wasn't sure the city would go ahead with the appeal after getting Friday's decision.

Staff writer Tracy Burton contributed to this report. Contact Christine MacDonald at 377-1286 or

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