2018-05-19 / Letters

Rupture Line 5 and We’re Out of Drinking Water

To the Editor:

On April 1, an anchor slammed into Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits and dented and gouged the twin oil pipelines, while also severing two submerged electric cables and spilling their toxic dielectric fluid into the water. It was at least the second significant strike of Line 5 in the Straits, according to Enbridge’s inspection data.

Will the next blow rupture the 65-year-old steel pipelines and dump some of their daily haul of 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids into the heart of the Great Lakes?

If so, then it’s strike three on Line 5, and we’re out of:

• Drinking water – Mackinac Island and St. Ignace will immediately lose their Great Lakes drinking water supply, and the oil spill could threaten shoreline communities and their water source from Traverse City to Alpena and beyond.

• Propane – The Upper Peninsula will lose a key source of propane, which Line 5 offloads in Rapid River near Escanaba.

• Jobs – Michigan’s economy will suffer an estimated $6 billion blow from damage to tourism, natural resources, coastal property values, commercial fishing, and municipal water systems, according to a new study by a Michigan State University economist commissioned by my organization, For Love of Water (FLOW).

It’s clearer than ever that the Upper Peninsula needs a propane backup plan as soon as possible, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette need to shut down Line 5 now before it poisons our Great Lakes and torpedoes our economic engine.

Line 5 has a terrible track record, having failed 29 times and leaked at least 1.1 million gallons of oil, mostly in the U.P., since it 1953 construction. Line 5 has exceeded its life expectancy and is more than two decades older than Enbridge’s pipeline that ruptured and dumped a million gallons of heavy oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010. Enbridge took two months to repair and restart that failed line. How long will the Upper Peninsula go without propane when Line 5 fails again?

Research by engineers working with FLOW reveals that just one or two rail cars or a few tanker trucks a day from Superior, Wisconsin, could replace Line 5’s U.P. propane supply. A state-sponsored study in October found that installing a four-inch diameter propane pipeline from Superior to Rapid River would meet demand. State leaders should urgently pursue these options.

Enbridge and Gov. Snyder, however, have not earned our trust on Line 5.

It was revealed in 2017 that Enbridge for three years hid the fact that Line 5 had lost its anti-rust outer coating in more than 60 places in the Mackinac Straits. On May 1, Enbridge agreed to pay a $1.8 million federal fine for failing to carry out timely and thorough inspections of Line 5 and other pipelines for weaknesses.

In November, Gov. Snyder bypassed his own advisory board and state law to cut a side deal with Enbridge to quickly study tunneling under the Straits as a replacement route for Line 5. The governor’s tunnel vision would lock Michigan into another 60-plus years of serving as a high-risk underwater shortcut for Canadian oil that ultimately crosses under the St. Clair River and returns to Canada for refining in Sarnia, Ontario.

More than 60 communities, 15 tribes and tribal groups, and hundreds of businesses have called for state leaders to shut down Line 5 before Enbridge’s next oil spill pollutes the Great Lakes. Many other pipelines with excess capacity deliver oil to Sarnia and other regional refineries, but these are the only Great Lakes we’ll ever have. It’s time for science, public trust law, and common sense to prevail over Canadian corporate greed.

Liz Kirkwood, executive director For Love of Water (FLOW) Traverse City.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2018-05-19 digital edition