2015-06-04 / Front Page

Some Urge Decommissioning of Line 5

Mackinac Island Town Crier
By Matt Harding


At right: Aaron Payment, tribal chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and assistants exhibit maps of what a possible oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would look like. The images are from the 2014 University of Michigan report that said the Straits would be “the worst possible place” for an oil spill in the Great Lakes. The May 27 conference took place at Trinity Church on Mackinac Island. At right: Aaron Payment, tribal chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and assistants exhibit maps of what a possible oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would look like. The images are from the 2014 University of Michigan report that said the Straits would be “the worst possible place” for an oil spill in the Great Lakes. The May 27 conference took place at Trinity Church on Mackinac Island. A privately commissioned report includes recommendations from three scientists and engineers who call for the decommissioning of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that rests under the Straits of Mackinac, citing environmental concerns. The 35-page report was discussed at a public conference Wednesday, May 27, at Trinity Church on Fort Street, where several environmental groups called for Governor Rick Snyder to take immediate action on the concerns.

The report was sent April 30 to the governor and the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force, led by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant.

The speakers included event moderator David Holtz, chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s executive committee; Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the group that commissioned the report, For Love of Water (FLOW); Gary Street, a former director of engineering at Dow Environmental who worked on FLOW’s report; Bruce Wallace, board chair of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and Aaron Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The group made their cases individually, urging Gov. Snyder to respond to the report and to take immediate action regarding the “archaic” 62-year-old Line 5 pipeline, which splits into twin pipes under the Straits and rests on the lake bottom less than two miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.

The report, Mr. Holtz said, “concludes that shutting down Enbridge Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac is the only option at this time to prevent a catastrophic oil spill.”

Added Mr. Street: “We think that the pipelines are, indeed, a disaster just waiting to happen.”

One of the primary concerns cited is the lack of transparency from Enbridge. The report says that the public information available is inadequate or imprecise. Part of the report says, “Enbridge should submit evidence and assurances at its cost that emergency resources and equipment are immediately and locally available.”

The company says it is taking the necessary precautions, and also refutes claims that there are issues with Line 5, posting this statement on its Web site: “extra steps to further enhance the pipe’s safety and reliability” have been taken, including increasing the frequency of inline inspection tools and regular inspections using expert divers. It claims emergency response systems are in place.

The pipelines are old, the report points out, and it contends they are being subjected to stresses that were not contemplated in the original design, specifically extra weight from zebra mussels, which Mr. Street said also prevents thorough inspections.

“One of the most significant hazards in these pipelines is from external corrosion,” Mr. Street said.

The invasive mussels, which were not present in the area when the pipeline was built, also leave an acidic waste that eats into the pipeline, he said.

Aside from the zebra mussels, FLOW and others are concerned with the coal-tar sealant used on the line, which had also been used on an Enbridge pipeline in Odessa, Saskatchewan, where an oil spill occurred in early 2014.

Mr. Wallace of NWF said the 2014 University of Michigan report commissioned by the NWF determined the Straits of Mackinac would be “the worst possible place” for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.

The strong oscillating currents in the Straits, Mr. Wallace said, are a strenuous force on the pipelines — nearly as great as the force of the water cascading down Niagara Falls, according to some estimates. This he said, in addition to the other structural uncertainties, would likely result in a pipeline leak or break if ignored.

“It’s a certainty, not speculation,” Mr. Wallace said, “that if a spill occurs — when it occurs — it’s going to have devastating consequences far beyond the Straits themselves.”

Mr. Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said he considers a spill “imminent.”

Combatting potential oil spills is the top priority for the groups that were represented at the press conference.

Most of these organizations call for a permanent decommissioning of Line 5 under the Straits, not just a temporary shut down for updates, although that is a primary starting goal.

FLOW’s Mrs. Kirkwood said, “I don’t even think [today’s] state-ofthe art technology could provide us with the comfort that we could [have a pipeline under the Straits] safely.”

The commissioned pipeline report can be viewed at http://www.oilandwaterdontmix. org/pipelinereport.

Governor Says: “An Important Issue and We’re Working It Hard”

During Governor Rick Snyder’s keynote address at the Mackinac Policy

Conference on Mackinac Island last week, three protestors walked through Grand Hotel’s Theatre with signs opposing the continued use of Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, which carries oil under the Straits of Mackinac.

Snyder understands that people have strong opinions on the issue, and he appreciates their participation in the democratic process, he told The St. Ignace News Friday, May 29. Gov. Snyder said, “I don’t think that was the best forum to do it in, but it was an important issue and we’re working it hard.”

Snyder cited the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report, which he said will be coming out at the end of June. It was earlier expected to be released in late May or early June.

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