2016-10-06 / Opinion

Oil Shipments in Line 5 Must Stop Immediately

To the Editor:

New Enbridge data shows that Enbridge Energy has continually violated its 1953 easement agreement with the State of Michigan. This easement states that, “The maximum span or length of pipe unsupported shall not exceed 75 feet.” Thus any span of greater than the 75-foot safety threshold is a breach of the easement.

Enbridge asserts (September 16 issue of The Detroit News) that the 75- foot safety limit bears no significance, claiming that “the original engineering analysis for the pipeline crossing noted that an unsupported span of up to 140 feet is safe.” Actually that analysis says that a span of 140 feet marks the danger threshold beyond which structural damage is likely to occur.

The original design called for the pipeline to rest on the bottom of the Straits, requiring no support. The Straits currents, much greater than originally estimated, continually create unsupported spans (at least three greater than the 140 feet danger threshold). Since the early 1970s, Enbridge has added more than a hundred supports to bring the pipeline back within safety levels, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, corrosion, abrasion, stress, and increased mussel weight has further weakened the pipe so that the 1953 span limits do not reflect the original safety margins. Clearly, Enbridge’s Line 5 is not, as Wetmore and Baraneicki contend, “As safe today as the day it was commissioned.”

Given the failure of Enbridge to prevent breaches of the easement and the increased stresses placed on the pipeline, the State of Michigan must protect the people of Michigan and our environment by shutting down oil shipments in Line 5 under the Straits now.

David and Anabel Dwyer

Mackinaw City

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