Proposed pipeline involves 650 landowners in Saginaw, Genesee, Oakland counties

Heather Jordan/MLive – Consumers Energy Co. is seeking approval to construct and operate a $636 million 24-inch natural gas pipeline that would span 94 miles and involve hundreds of landowners in Saginaw, Genesee and Oakland counties.

The proposed Saginaw Trail Pipeline would replace approximately 78 miles of 12- and 16-inch gas transmission pipeline that company officials say is nearing the end of its operational life.

Consumers Energy officials in September requested that the Michigan Public Service Commission approve the project. Should the Commission approve it, project permits will also be required from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Transportation and those required by local municipalities.

According to Consumers Energy’s application, the proposed pipeline would replace the existing Line 2800 Pipeline between the company’s Zilwaukee Junction in Saginaw County’s Tittabawassee Township and its Clawson Control Station in Oakland County’s Milford Township.

Company officials say the proposed pipeline and related facilities “are necessary for the safe and efficient conduct of the company’s public utility business and will serve the public interest.”

Read the filing here.

Company officials aim to begin construction of the proposed Saginaw Trail Pipeline this summer and to conclude construction by 2021. Construction would happen in five phases, beginning at Consumers Energy’s valve site in Saginaw County south of Evon Road and continue south to a natural gas city gate facility near Vienna Road in Genesee County, according to Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd. About 20 miles of pipeline would be replaced and three existing city gate facilities would be rebuilt.

A city gate is equipment strategically located along pipelines designed to lower the pressure of gas so it can be safely delivered to homes and businesses, Dodd said.

The proposed pipeline would largely be located on the existing pipeline rights-of-way. However, Consumers Energy plans to reroute the proposed pipeline around the urban areas west of Saginaw and east of Flint, according to the filing.

“Consumers Energy is committed to ensuring pipeline integrity and the ability to continue providing safe and reliable natural gas delivery to customers,” a statement provided by Dodd reads.

“As part of this commitment we will replace approximately 78 miles of 12- and 16-inch gas transmission pipeline that is reaching the end of its operational life with a new 24-inch pipeline (called the Saginaw Trail Pipeline project). Including re-routes around urban areas, the new 24-inch pipeline will be 94 miles in length.”

The statement continues, “In some areas the pipeline is being rerouted to avoid proximity to residential backyards and areas of environmental sensitivity, and in other areas it will follow the existing route. When the pipeline was originally built in 1942 much of the current developed land was primarily agricultural.

“Wherever possible Consumers Energy is following its utility easements, and then has tried to determine the route of least impact on customers and the environment.”

Company officials say an environmental assessment for the proposed pipeline concluded construction of the pipeline would “have no significant adverse impact on the environment.”

In addition, company officials say they will “work with all applicable federal, state and local agencies to ensure any environmental concerns are taken into consideration. An onsite environmental monitor will be present throughout construction.”

Judy Palnau, media and public information specialist with the Michigan Agency for Energy/Michigan Public Service Commission said Consumers Energy filed its application with the Michigan Public Service Commission seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to construct and operate the Saginaw Trail Pipeline on Sept. 2.

The proceeding is being held before an administrative law judge and the target date for the judge’s decision is May 10. After that, the MPSC commissioners will issue an order on the utility’s request, Palnau said.

Those interested in this proposed project may email comments to the MPSC, she said. Comments should reference Case No. U-18166 and be emailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov.

All information submitted to the Commission will become public information available on the Commission’s website and subject to disclosure.

Consumers Energy officials say they have been proactively communicating with landowners, local government and related organizations and safety officials along the pipeline route. Construction would involve about 650 landowners in Saginaw, Genesee and Oakland counties, according to Dodd.

Alan Ackerman, managing partner of Ackerman Ackerman & Dynkowski P.C., says he wants to make sure affected property owners are compensated fairly. He is representing two of them. A lawsuit has not been filed.

“They’re going to have their properties ripped up. They may or may not be compensated according to what the original easement says,” Ackerman explained.

Ackerman said some of the affected property owners do not currently have pipeline on their property and adding it could have a negative affect on their property values.

“The pipeline company has some pretty good justification for doing this. They really need to get gas to market,” Ackerman said. “But when people lose their property they should be treated fairly.”

He added, “Property is a great privilege in America as well as a right.”