2017-11-16 / Opinion

With the Great Lakes at Stake, We Cannot Give Enbridge Preferential Treatment

To the Editor:

“Say you’re sorry” is not an appropriate response for the State of Michigan to take when a major oil transportation company misinforms the public about the status of safety measures on their pipeline in the Great Lakes. Yet, in light of the discovery that Enbridge has known about missing coating on their risky pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac for three years but never informed the state, Michigan officials are requesting an apology.

Those in Lansing may not see the extent of the threat, but we here on Mackinac Island do. An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be the end of life on Mackinac Island as we know it. This is where our families and our communities live. This is our home. This is not Enbridge’s home.

So, why is Enbridge getting preferential treatment? No one else is allowed to impose risk on other businesses and livelihoods like this. If I were to be running a business that lies to regulators or fails to maintain vital equipment, I would be shut down. I would expect to be shut down rather quickly too. This company doesn’t seem to be subject to the same regulations as everyone else. This is not acceptable.

This news from Enbridge means either the company was lying or they were careless. Considering the extreme level of scrutiny that the pipeline coating was under back in March, I find it hard to believe that the engineers who discovered the missing coating did not feel the need to report their knowledge to their higher ups. Even if this was truly an “internal reporting issue,” this carelessness displays a fundamental misunderstanding of risk management on the part of Enbridge. Am I to trust in a company who fails to inform their public relations person? Am I to trust in a company who decides for themselves what is and is not a safety concern worth sharing?

I understand that we must continue to provide oil products to the region, but there are ways to solve this without putting the Great Lakes at risk. Dynamic Risk Assessment’s recent “Alternatives to the Straits Pipeline” estimates a mere two cents per gallon of gasoline price raise at the pump if we decommission Line 5. Propane costs would increase 35 cents a gallon but there are ways to mitigate the costs of that as well – methods such as trucking to the U.P. or installing a smaller four inch pipeline to the distribution center in Rapid River.

Because of the system in place, we are reliant on Enbridge to report truthfully on the integrity of this pipeline. Inspections are either conducted by Enbridge themselves or by third-party groups who rely on data from Enbridge to create the analysis. Enbridge has irreconcilably broken trust and the stakes are too high. It is not the time for another slap on the wrist; it is time to decommission this pipeline.

Paul Spata

Mackinac Island

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