2013-07-12 / News

Rally Will Protest Oil Pipeline Capacity Expansion July 14 in St. Ignace

By Paul Gingras

A demonstration protesting Enbridge Energy’s increased capacity for oil flow through Line 5, composed of two pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac, is scheduled for Sunday, July 14, from noon to 1:30 p.m., at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace. Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute, said the National Wildlife Federation, Detroit Citizens Against Tar Sands, the Kalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition, Traverse City 350, Ann Arbor 350, and Cecil Pavlat representing the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, will attend.

Mr. Lively contends the pipelines are old and that increased conveyance of petroleum, particularly heavy products like tar sands, through them is dangerous and threatens the Great Lakes.

Larry Springer of Enbridge says the company already has increased capacity by about 2.1 million gallons a day and may already have increased conveyance through its lines. He says the lines are safe and do not carry heavy petroleum products, notably “tar sands,” cited as a high concern by protest organizers.

The company is relying on Line 5’s strength, extensive testing, and the low impact of the light petroleum products that flow through it, Mr. Springer said Friday, June 28.

The issue concerns the Lakehead pipeline, which originates in Superior, Wisconsin, runs through the Upper Peninsula, and crosses to the Lower Peninsula just east of the Mackinac Bridge. It splits into two smaller lines beneath the Straits (Line 5), which traverse the lake floor.

The gathering at St. Ignace is intended, in part, as a forum to call attention to the company’s past safety record, notably the spill at Enbridge Line 6B at the Kalamazoo River in 2010, where nearly one million gallons of oil spilled near Marshall. It was the largest inland oil spill in the United States, Mr. Lively said.

Demonstrators are calling attention to dangers associated with increasing conveyance through the lines, and highlight the potential for tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to be moved through the pipes. The term “tar sands” refers to a thick, viscous material that Mr. Lively’s group and other organizations fear could overwhelm the 60-year-old pipelines and spill into the Great Lakes.

Line 5 is nearly the same age as its counterpart that failed at the Kalamazoo River.

“We understand we are crossing a very important water body,” but oil pipelines do not carry tar sands, Mr. Springer said.

Although Line 5 can carry heavier materials than it does now, it will not be used to carry heavy oil, he added.

Heavier oil products are moved through line 6B in Lower Michigan. Line 5 is used to move lighter materials, including processed hydrocarbons such as liquefied natural gas, light crude oil, and synthetic oil, products used to create gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and other materials, Mr. Springer said.

“Enbridge can say it’s not tar sands oil.” Mr. Lively said. “They’re calling it diluted bitumen, which is the same material that spilled into the Kalamazoo River. We don’t want that material spilled into the Great Lakes or anywhere else. They can call it what they want, but it will be a mess if it gets into the Lakes.”

The oil coming from Alberta is exceptionally “dirty and hard to clean up,” he added.

Mr. Springer emphasized that the pipes beneath the Straits of Mackinac are “extremely thick steel.” The steel in the 20-inchdiameter pipes are ¾-inch thick, have been examined regularly inside and out, and are operating normally, he said.

The company has improved its pumps to increase the conveyance, he added.

Enbridge does not own the material it conveys, which can change at any time depending on what refiners, producers, or others order. Light materials that run through Line 5 are in high demand, Mr. Springer noted.

The demonstration at St. Ignace will include an address by Bill McKibben, an outspoken activist against the Keystone XL pipeline that is proposed to move material from Alberta to Texas, Mr. Lively said. If Keystone XL is not built, more material could go through pipelines intended for lighter substances, such as Line 5 at the Straits, he added.

Groups like his and the National Wildlife Federation have had a “very difficult time” determining the relationship between the materials transported and the federal permitting process, he explained.

Enbridge is overseen by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The fact that Enbridge is saying that they have already increased flow “is part of what concerns us,” Mr. Lively said.

Groups converging at St. Ignace are urging the company to lower its conveyance of petroleum products “until we find out if it’s safe,” he explained.

A focus for demonstrators is to draw the attention of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and convey demands for the “strongest, transparent regulations possible, so we don’t have a catastrophic spill in the Great Lakes,” he added.

Speakers at the rally are also planning to speak about “pet coke piles” in Detroit. Pet coke piles, Mr. Lively said, are accumulations of a byproduct produced by burning oil imported from from Alberta.

The demonstration will include music and an address by author Jerry Dennis regarding fresh water lakes.

For more information about the protest and the concerns of organizations involved visit www.oilandwaterdontmix.com. For more information about Enbridge pipelines, visit www.ebridge.com, and www.enbridgeus.com.

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