Tag: Alternative

Enough is Enough: It’s Time to Decommission Line 5


Every year, a million visitors reach the shores of Mackinac Island, also known as Turtle Island to the Anishinaabe peoples who first settled here in the Great Lakes.  Unlike most visitors, every May I make an annual pilgrimage to the island to argue the case to decommission Line 5 to our top state and federal leaders at the Policy Conference.  Against the spectacular backdrop of the Straits of Mackinac, thousands of attendees gather on this tiny island to discuss the state’s most pressing economic issues.  But every year without fail, Line 5 is not even mentioned on the agenda.  And the irony could not be greater.

Let’s talk economics for a moment: Michigan will suffer an estimated $6.3 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 FLOW.  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.

Legislators often ask about the U.P. propane issue, which continues to be a red herring and barrier to clear decisive state action.  Research by engineers working with FLOW reveals that just 1-2 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 4-inch-diameter propane pipeline from Superior to Rapid River would meet demand.  State leaders should urgently pursue these options.

And where does all the Line 5 oil go?  It turns out that 90-95 percent of Line 5’s oil comes and goes back to Canada.  What this means is that the 5-10 percent of the crude oil in Line 5 headed to the Detroit and Toledo refineries could be replaced by oil from the Capline and Mid-Valley pipelines from the south that serve the same refineries, along with crude from Northern Michigan oil fields.  Alternative pipelines exist that do not threaten our globally unique Great Lakes that contain 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.  

The catastrophic nature of a potential spill became clear last month when a tugboat anchor slammed into Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits and dented and gouged the Line 5 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.  

So here we are, another year later with little progress towards decommissioning Line 5.  Rather, Governor Snyder had high hopes of wrapping things up with his November 2017 back-room deal with Enbridge to authorize a tunnel under both the Straits and the St. Clair River.  Significant legal questions and challenges loom, not to mention engineering trials and staggering public work costs that make this a hazardous path to walk.  Bottom line, a tunnel (even if feasible) could take 7-10 years to build and utterly fails to address the ongoing and growing imminent threat as the pipelines continue to bend and age every day.

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

According to the Detroit Free Press, Line 5 is one of the “thorniest issues being grappled with by state leaders, including Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.”  This, however, should not be the case.  Our state leaders, in fact, have the legal power now to decommission Line 5 by revoking the easement it granted Enbridge in 1953 to build Line 5 and occupy our waters of the Great Lakes under public trust law.  Heightened state scrutiny and enforcement are warranted given that Enbridge continues to violate its legal easement agreement with the state and the express engineering requirements designed to prevent catastrophic rupture.  For example, in 2017, it was revealed that Enbridge for three years hid the fact that Line 5 had lost its anti-rust outer pipeline coating in more than 60 places in the Straits of Mackinac. 

Enough is enough.  It’s time to decommission Line 5.  


FLOW Releases New Fact Sheets Regarding Line 5

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                               February 6, 2017

Contact:  Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director                                        Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org

FLOW (For Love of Water)                                             Office: (231) 944-1568, Cell: (570) 872-4956

 

Research Identifies Viable Options to Enbridge’s Aging “Line 5” for U.P.’s Propane Supply and Michigan, Midwest Demand for Oil

Developing and Implementing Alternatives to Aging Pipelines in the Mackinac Straits is Key to Preventing Great Lakes Oil Spill Disaster

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Just one to two propane rail cars or a few tanker trucks a day could replace the Line 5 pipeline’s Upper Peninsula propane capacity without risking energy security in the U.P. or a catastrophic Great Lakes oil spill, according to experts for FLOW, a water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes.

FLOW’s latest research shows that Line 5 supplies only about one-third to one-half of the Upper Peninsula’s propane, considerably less than the 65-85 percent that pipeline-owner Enbridge asserts, based on FLOW’s estimates using publicly available data. And importantly, FLOW’s estimate represents a relatively small quantity of propane to transport, as the Upper Peninsula is sparsely populated and fewer than 1-in-5 U.P. residents lives in housing heated by propane. (Click here to see the new FLOW fact sheet on Line 5 and U.P. propane supply option.)

Enbridge’s inflated propane claims have needlessly fostered concern among local residents and state lawmakers that shutting down the aging pipeline to prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Mackinac Straits would result in freezing Upper Peninsula residents in their homes.

“It’s clearer than ever that Line 5 is not vital to Michigan’s energy security and, in fact, threatens ourPure Michigan economy and the drinking water supply to communities from Mackinac Island to metropolitan Detroit,” said Liz Kirkwood, an environmental attorney and FLOW’s executive director. “What’s needed now is a little ingenuity and a willingness to look for answers beyond the status quo with a steel pipeline transporting oil and liquid natural gas that was installed underwater in 1953.”

FLOW’s latest findings serve as an update to FLOW’s December 2015 expert report that concluded that decommissioning the twin pipelines in the Mackinac Straits to prevent a disastrous oil spill would not disrupt Michigan’s or the Midwest’s crude oil and propane supply, contrary to Enbridge assertions.

FLOW’s research is meant to inform deliberations by a state advisory board that meets next on March 13 in Lansing. The State of Michigan in partnership with the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board is overseeing the completion of two independent studies funded by Enbridge: one on the financial risk to communities and the Pure Michigan economy of a Line 5 oil spill in the Mackinac Straits and the other on alternatives to the aging pipeline that could avoid such a disaster. These two studies are expected by mid-2017.

FLOW supports decommissioning Line 5 to protect the Great Lakes, tribal fishing rights, and citizens’ public trust rights to navigate, boat, drink, fish, swim, and benefit from these precious waters. The State of Michigan must act with urgency to identify a viable plan for meeting Michigan’s energy needs without threatening the Great Lakes or public-owned bottomlands, which the Enbridge pipelines occupy under a 1953 easement with the state.

FLOW’s December 2015 research determined that available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American pipeline system run not only by Canadian-based Enbridge, but also by competitors supplying the same refineries in Detroit, Toledo, and Sarnia, Ontario.

Furthermore, at least 90 percent of the 540,000 barrels per day of oil and liquid natural gases moved through Line 5 end up in Canadian refineries, undermining claims that the pipeline is an important source of crude for the Marathon refinery in Detroit. (Click here to see the new FLOW fact sheet on alternatives to Line 5.)

“Our work to date has led to the conclusion that Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac can be shut down, without resorting to additional oil trains, tank trucks, or lake tankers to serve regional refineries, as Enbridge would have you believe,” said Gary Street, a retired chemical engineer and former director of engineering at Dow Environmental – AWD Technologies. “In addition, straightforward steps can be taken to assure customers in the Upper Peninsula of an on-going supply of propane, which is offloaded from Line 5 in Rapid River near Escanaba before ever reaching the segment that would be decommissioned in the Mackinac Straits.”

For more information:

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