2017-08-12 / Top News

Public Responds to Line 5 State Report

By Kevin R. Hess

Citizens, environmental groups, and Enbridge employees responded to the Alternatives Analysis Report for Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac Tuesday evening, July 25, at St. Ignace. The report by the independent contractor Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems was commissioned by the state in 2016.

The objective of the Alternatives Analysis Report is to provide an independent, comprehensive analysis of oil and gas delivery methods alternative to the existing straits pipelines, and the extent to which each alternative promotes the health, safety, and welfare of the public and protects the public resources of the Great Lakes. The work was not to recommend a preferred alternative.

Analyzed were construction of alternative pipelines that do not cross the Straits, using other ways to transport the oil, replacing existing pipes using current design and technology, maintaining the current system, and analyzing the effective life of the existing system.

For each alternative, Dynamic Risk was to evaluate feasibility, advantages and disadvantages, benefits to the public, risk, cost and economic impact, and the extent to which the alternative provides for the continued transportation of the quantity and types of products now carried by the existing Straits pipelines and the remainder of Line 5 in Michigan.

State project representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Attorney General’s office, and Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE), along with Dynamic Risk, were in attendance to listen to comments, but not answer questions about the report.

A final draft will be compiled in the fall, and another round of public hearings will be held, said Melody Kindraka, public information officer for the DEQ.

“The goal,” she said, “is for the task force to be a resource, bringing a recommendation to the Governor’s office with as much information as possible.”

The 337 page draft report was released June 28 and was made available to the public through Michigan Petroleum Pipelines’ Web site. Those wishing to speak Tuesday were each given three minutes to comment. Once everyone who wanted to had spoken, the floor was reopened for anyone to offer further comment. Many voiced their concerns and support for the pipeline over the next two hours.

Jennifer McKay, a member of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, said, overall, she was disappointed by the report, saying it used flawed methodology and assumptions. She said the report failed to evaluate the worst-case scenario and to consider all alternatives, and that there was too much missing from the report, including structural integrity. She also believed that some of the alternatives were dismissed without discussion.

Ed Timm, an engineer retired from Dow Chemical, offered copies of his own research, saying the Dynamic Risk formula is flawed. The report, he said, failed to factor many significant facts into its analysis of the pipeline. He released his own report prior to the public feedback sessions, outlining his findings. Among them are public documents that he says show Enbridge allowed multiple unsupported bends to develop during the first 50 years of Line 5’s operation, raising the risk of pipeline failure. Efforts to maintain the pipeline supports were especially deficient during a 23 year period between 1980 and 2003, he said.

“The Dynamic Risk Analysis failed to factor into its analysis the impact of 50 years of unsupported pipeline spans,” said Dr. Timm. “Instead, Dynamic Risk estimated pipeline risk using a flawed mathematical model and the assumption of the pipeline to be in brand new condition.”

The analysis estimated a 1-in- 60 chance, or 1.6%, of a pipeline rupture through 2053. But Dr. Timm said that a proper analysis would put the expected failure probability of Line 5 at 46.4% in 2017 and 72.5% by 2053 based on failure rates for all pipelines.

“This is a far cry from the 1.6% reported,” he said.

He also contended Dynamic Risk based its probability of a rupture on average weather conditions, rather than extreme conditions of high winds and waves. His report said peak water velocity in the Straits is estimated to be at least 20% higher than what Dynamic Risk evaluated.

“Structures don’t fail during nice weather,” said Dr. Timm. “Winds and waves in the straits fluctuate greatly, yet Dynamic Risk removed from their analysis the most likely condition when a rupture would occur. It’s truly puzzling why they would skirt widely recognized best practices in their analysis and omit so many critical details from their examination of the rupture risk of Line 5. The glaring errors and omissions in this report disqualify much of the Alternatives Analysis as simply wrong.”

Dr. Timm recommended that an interdisciplinary group of technical experts, drawn from a range of industry and non-industry sources, be assembled to more closely examine the fitness for service of Line 5 under the straits. He then volunteered his own time to help conduct a better analysis.

A separate independent report, contracted by the state to analyze risks on the pipeline, was recently scrapped by the state owing to a conflict of interest with contractor Det Norske Veritas, and citizen Leonard Page alleged that, in fact, the whole project has been a conflict of interest problem. Mr. Page is with Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment.

“The task force asked for an independent and comprehensive report of alternatives,” he said Tuesday. “You did not get that at all.”

Leo Forster, of the same group, said the Alternatives Analysis report seems to outline what is in the best interest of Enbridge, not the people of Michigan.

“Let Enbridge worry about how to get Canadian oil to Canadian refineries,” he said.

Many argued that the report underestimated the amount of oil that could be spilled and its economic and environmental impact. In the report, Dynamic Risk estimated a leak or rupture could release up to 4,500 barrels of oil, affect up to 20 miles of shoreline, primarily in Cheboygan, Emmet, and Mackinac counties, and cost approximately $100 million to $200 million. One commenter said the report does not adequately assess the economic impact, failing to consider the historical and Native American losses, in addition to tourism, drinking water, shoreline damage, and other factors.

“4,500 barrels is not a worstcase scenario, it is a best-case pipe dream,” he said. “A spill could cost $150 to $200 million in Cheboygan County alone; $20 to $30 billion is a more accurate estimate.”

A 2016 study conducted by the University of Michigan estimated that 720 miles of shoreline could be affected by a spill, depending on the scenario. The study outlined 840 scenarios, compared to Dynamic Risks’ 360 scenarios. The University of Michigan estimated a 25,000 barrel spill, or 1.05 million gallons, would hit 152 miles of shoreline. The average of all cases for that size of a spill is 74 miles. In a worst-case scenario, the U of M study estimated that the oil would spread across 4,980 miles of lakes Michigan and Huron. Dynamic Risk’s 4,500 barrel estimate is based on an assertion that the presence of automatic shut-off valves positioned on both the Upper and Lower Peninsula sides of the Straits of Mackinac would be triggered based on any drops in pipeline pressure.

Another oft-voiced concern was the allegation that the report was written to benefit Enbridge. In its description, the state says the work was not to include recommendations by the contractor of a preferred alternative. Some argue that Dynamic Risk did exactly this. In its consideration of alternatives using existing pipeline infrastructure, the report says, “Some alternatives to the Straits Crossing were eliminated during the early stages of analysis. For example, there were limited options for using existing pipeline infrastructure due to limited capacity on existing assets… Therefore, the option of using existing pipeline infrastructure was removed from further detailed analyses.” The report also states that other alternatives were eliminated as viable options. Many people there to to voice their views believed these statements were outside the scope of work required by the state.

“Dynamic Risk was told not to offer their own alternatives, but they have done exactly that,” said one commenter. “They prematurely dismissed options to the benefit of Enbridge and Enbridge alone.”

Jim Dunham, a business owner in Alanson, said the pipeline has “no business in our Great Lakes.” He believes the oil can be transported on land and, even in the event of an accident, cleaning it up would be much less damaging than if it happened under the Straits of Mackinac.

“Water is our greatest resource and to tinker with that is foolish,” he said.

If the oil were to spill in the winter, “It could sit under the ice for months before doing something about it in the spring,” he said. The Coast Guard has acknowledged it is not equipped for winter cleanup.

Another commenter compared Line 5 to a car with 300,000 miles on it: “It’s not a question of if it will fail, but when it will fail. All of this area is based on water. If something happened here [with the pipeline], everything would shut down.”

Dale Giddings, a Cheboygan resident and member of the Straits Area Concerned Citizens, believes the report tries to “quantify the unquantifiable.” He used the illustration of trying to quantify a mother’s love for her child, saying that some things are known to be true without needing numbers to support them.

“Quantifying the unquantifiable is dangerous and could lead to false conclusions,” he said. “Numbers are only part of the picture. In many situations, the unquantifiable is more important.”

David Holtz, chairman of the Sierra Club of Michigan, said the conflict of interest is too great to ignore, that the same people who will be analyzing public comment and information are the same ones who authored the report. He and others called on the state to appoint universities and “truly independent” contractors who have no personal stake in the outcome of any analyses.

Several Enbridge employees addressed the task force with assurance that the pipeline is safe and that the company is committed and dedicated to the ongoing maintenance and safety of Line 5. All of them were wearing stickers that said, “We Support Safe Energy Transportation.” Employee Joe Calcaterra said he has been involved in environmental work and Coast Guard studies and that Enbridge “is one of the most for- ward-thinking and environmentally concerned companies” he has ever worked with.

“Dynamic Risk knows, and we know, the importance of the straits to the community,” said Mr. Calcaterra. “I want to reassure folks that Line 5 is safe and well maintained.”

Blake Olson, operations manager for Enbridge in northern Michigan, spoke to the safety of the pipe by bringing in a sample of the original pipe that was removed in 2016 from the Mackinaw station. He showed the pipe to the board and said that oil had passed through that pipe for 63 years and there is no sign of wear to the pipe.

“All of our testing shows the pipeline is in good condition,” he said. “I live in northern Michigan. I want to protect these waters, and I know my fellow Enbridge employees feel the same.”

One commenter quoted Attorney General Bill Schuette, who said, “In today’s world, the state would not likely permit the construction of two pipelines running underwater through such a sensitive area.”

“If it wouldn’t be allowed to be built today, then why is it allowed today?” the citizen asked.

Is Line 5 Essential?

One of the points of contention throughout this process has been the amount of oil from Line 5 that is used in Michigan, and especially the Upper Peninsula. Enbridge reports that between 65% to 75% of the Upper Peninsula’s propane and 55% of Michigan’s propane, comes from oil shipped through Line 5. Each day, 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids flow through Line 5. Consumer Energy Alliance reports this is enough to power one million passenger cars and trucks daily with gas, fuel 6,000 semi-trailers daily with diesel, fly 883 commercial planes per day, and heat 300,000 homes annually. Natural gas liquids flow to a refinery in Rapid River, are refined into propane, and shipped to propane dealers in Michigan. The figures are based on volume flow and reports from the propane dealers in Michigan.

For Love of Water (FLOW) contends the Alternatives Analysis report estimates an impact to propane supply much greater than what it actually would be. FLOW’s independent analysis determined that Line 5 supplies only 35% to 50% of the Upper Peninsula’s propane.

In addition, the Alternatives Analysis Report for Line 5 says that up to 35 railcars per week, or 15 truckloads per day, would be necessary to replace the Line 5 supply of natural gas liquids, while FLOW’s studies say it would only take one railcar or three to four truckloads per day.

One commenter said the report’s numbers are misleading because, while 65% of the Upper Peninsula’s propane may come through Line 5, only 25% of Upper Peninsula homes use propane to heat their homes.

“The fact is, Line 5 is not essential,” said Rick Kane, a Michigan based hazardous materials risk management specialist and advisor to FLOW. “The regional pipeline system can supply crude oil to Michigan and surrounding refineries while eliminating the risk that Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes. Feasible and prudent alternatives exist to support domestic needs, as well as exports, however, pipeline company owners will not move to implement any alternatives as long as Line 5 operates and the public continues to carry the risk.”

The Alternatives Analysis report estimates Michigan consumers would have to pay $121 million more per year just for transportation fuel, and between 10¢ and 25¢ per gallon more for propane, an $80 million increase, should Line 5 be decommissioned.

Another accusation levied at Enbridge is that the company expanded the amount of product it transported through Line 5 by 10% in 2013 without public knowledge, violating the easement. Michael Barnes, spokesman for Enbridge, said that the amount has increased, but nothing has been done secretively or illegally.

“All pipelines are permitted to carry a certain amount of product,” he said. “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) rates all pipelines and allows them to flow within certain limits. We have always been within those guidelines and we will continue to be.”

Mr. Barnes said if Enbridge is audited regularly and if it were transporting more than it was permitted to, the audits would reveal that.

“We certainly have not bent any rules,” he said.

In addition, Mr. Barnes said Line 5 is operating at a pressure of 125 pounds per square inch (PSI), even though the pipes are built to withstand 1200 PSI. For perspective, he said, the pressure required to pedal a road bike is 110 PSI.

“The pipeline is being operated at a very minimal level,” he said.

The public hearings were held almost seven years to the day that Enbridge’s Line 6B in Marshall ruptured and spilled more than 1.2 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Several commenters reminded the task force of that event and said a similar incident in the Great Lakes would be “catastrophic.” While several claim Enbridge did not take proper responsibility, Mr. Barnes said Enbridge owned up to what happened.

“The event in Marshall was transformational for this company,” said Mr. Barnes. “It forced us to go back and reevaluate our safety measures. We are a much better and safer company because of that event.”

Enbridge paid more than $170 million in fines and agreed-upon spill prevention requirements in a 2016 settlement.

“We have put in place several new safety measures to prevent something like that from ever happening again,” said Mr. Barnes. “We’ve spent billions of dollars to improve the system, not just in Marshall, but in every pipe we operate. We owned up to what happened. We paid for the cleanup, and the Kalamazoo River is back to normal and even better.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DEQ declared the river fit for recreational use in 2016 after testing the water showed the river quality was back to normal levels.

“The water quality has actually improved,” said Mr. Barnes. “Wildlife has returned, fishing is back, new species have been seen, and there is more access to the river than before.

Mr. Barnes said Enbridge built multiple parks along the river, providing access to the water for boaters.

“The spill is not ‘still being cleaned up’ as alleged,” he said. “It has been cleaned up.”

Mr. Barnes also noted that comparing Line 5 to Line 6B is not fair.

“Line 5’s two pipes are completely different,” he said. “The pipe in the Mackinac Straits is seamless pipe, more than ¾-inch thick. It is one of our most monitored and well-maintained pipes in our system. We take the water of the Great Lakes seriously and we have never had an issue with this pipe. We are serious about our commitment to the Great Lakes and to the people and communities who use them.”

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2017-08-12 digital edition