Tag: oil pipelines

A ‘Line 5’ Oil Tunnel Won’t Protect the Great Lakes from Enbridge, Climate Change

Above: FLOW’s Liz Kirkwood speaking in opposition to a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac, during a November 8, 2018, hearing in St. Ignace.


In the world of public relations, there are facts, exaggerations, and untruths. Right now, Enbridge is bombarding the people of Michigan with hazy PR claims that it has safely operated the Line 5 oil pipelines in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac for the last 66 years.

The Canadian energy pipeline giant, however, conveniently fails to tell the public that it has allowed the pipelines to deteriorate badly, bending and grinding on the lake bottom in the fierce currents. Enbridge also neglects to mention that on April Fools’ Day 2018, Line 5 threatened to dump its oil into the Great Lakes when a tugboat anchor struck, and risked breaching, the underwater pipelines. 

Rather than seizing on this near-disaster to decommission the decaying pipeline infrastructure built in 1953, the Snyder administration instead spent its final eight months in office cementing a private pact with Enbridge. The backroom deal would leave Line 5 vulnerable to another anchor strike or rupture for up to a decade while Enbridge explores the feasibility of building an oil tunnel under the Straits.

Michigan’s new attorney general, Dana Nessel, in late March correctly determined that the tunnel law passed hastily in the waning days of the 2018 lame-duck legislature was unconstitutional. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer later that same day directed all state departments to halt work on tunnel permitting. But Gov. Whitmer’s recent opening of negotiations with Enbridge seeking to speed up the stalled tunnel process contradicts her own directive and circumvents a transparent public process.

Trying to hasten a bad idea won’t make it any better. While seeking to revive Snyder’s 99-year tunnel deal with Enbridge risks undermining Gov. Whitmer’s own goal to combat climate change risks and impacts.

And Enbridge and the former Snyder administration’s claims that the proposed oil tunnel would serve a public purpose by also housing electrical and other utilities is a ruse that masks an enormous risk of explosion, as experts advising FLOW determined in prior research.  

Just today, in fact, an electrical supplier to the Upper Peninsula – American Transmission Company or “ATC” – issued a letter indicating that it has no intention of running its 138,000-volt electric lines through the proposed oil tunnel. “A tunnel of uncertain timing, later in the decade, does not serve the public,” the letter stated. “ATC does not believe that installing high voltage electric lines in close proximity to high pressure oil or gas lines is a good idea.”

It’s never been clearer that Enbridge is pretending there’s a public purpose to their private oil tunnel in order to gain access to the public waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act requires there be a “public purpose,” no impairment or interference with fishing and other public trust uses and rights of citizens and communities, and a showing of no feasible and prudent alternative for transporting Canadian oil back to Canada. The state of Michigan must restore the rule of law and transparency by requiring Enbridge to apply to build a tunnel in the Straits under the law, not negotiate occupancy of public bottomlands behind closed doors.

The real solution to the Line 5 threat must protect the Great Lakes, which define Michigan, drive our economy, and provide drinking water to half the state’s population. Gov. Whitmer must heed her campaign promise to shut down Line 5, while implementing a common-sense backup plan for propane transport in the Upper Peninsula using truck, train, or a small new pipe that doesn’t cross the Straits of Mackinac.

Let’s cut through Enbridge’s PR-fog and get the facts straight. Line 5 is not vital energy infrastructure for Michigan. More than 90 percent of the oil in Line 5 comes from and flows back to Canada.

Not only does Enbridge lack adequate insurance to cover the impacts of a catastrophic spill estimated from $1.87 billion to as much as $45 billion, the company’s oil spill response plan was held to be inadequate in late March by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

Enbridge’s dismal track record is underscored by its 2010 Line 6B Kalamazoo River disaster – known as the largest inland tar sands oil spill in U.S. history – and extends to Line 5, which has leaked in total over a million gallons of oil in Michigan and Wisconsin from at least 33 known spills since 1968.

Infrastructure needs abound in Michigan – ranging from our failing drinking water and wastewater infrastructure to the aging Soo Locks and a long-term clean energy plan for the U.P and the state as a whole.  Let’s shut down Line 5 and create jobs focused on those real needs, instead of protecting Enbridge’s private interest in our public waters.


Enbridge’s Neglect of 64-Year-Old “Line 5” Pipelines Risks Mackinac Straits, Requires State to Stop Oil and Hold Hearings


 


 


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO MEDIA: June 29, 2017

Contacts:

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director                                                  Cell: 570-872-4956
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                          Email: liz@flowforwater.org

Jim Olson, Founder & President                                                   Cell: 231-499-8831
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                          Email: olson@envlaw.com 

 

TRAVERSE CITY –

After the revelation earlier this month that Enbridge for years routinely violated a legal agreement to properly anchor its dual pipelines against the swift currents in the Mackinac Straits, the state of Michigan now must apply the law, stop Line 5’s oil flow, and hold public hearings as it considers the Canadian company’s application to squeeze more life out of its decaying steel infrastructure built in 1953, according to FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes water law and policy center, in formal comments released today.

While the state’s 1953 easement agreement granting Enbridge conditional occupancy of state bottomlands in the Mackinac Straits allows Enbridge up to 90 days to cure any violations, a 2016 report commissioned by Enbridge shows that the company for years knowingly ignored the erosion problem, which  appears to be unfixable and worsening with time.

“Enbridge’s willful neglect to properly support Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits is a game changer,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director and environmental attorney. “This neglect is a flagrant violation of the company’s privilege to use the bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes.”

“Leaving the pipeline exposed without support in the currents and forces of the Straits causes metal fatigue and heightens the risk of a spill. There needs to be an investigation of whether a pipeline should be there at all, before considering structural changes to a pipeline that has been compromised by the company’s own actions,” Kirkwood said.

Enbridge’s June 9 “maintenance” application to install up to 22 more pipeline anchors into Lake Michigan’s public bottomlands fails to address a company pattern of violating the easement and avoiding an assessment of Line 5’s impacts and alternatives, while perpetuating the imminent threat to the Great Lakes and the protected public uses that include fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking, according to a legal analysis by FLOW.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is receiving public comment through today on Enbridge’s application, which also is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This application is not about anchor supports. It’s about whether Enbridge can expand Line 5 and the new Line 78 from Indiana across lower Michigan to Sarnia,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president and a renowned water rights attorney.  “Our cities, villages, and citizens have ended up with Enbridge’s version of the Keystone XL right here in the Great Lakes, and it happened without the public notice, hearings, and independent impact and alternative analyses required by law.”

The application, like many others filed by Enbridge in the last few years, disguises the company’s piecemeal actions that continue to significantly expand oil transport through and around the Great Lakes. Line 5 transports nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids each day through the Mackinac Straits, 80 percent more volume than its past design capacity after several of its so-called “maintenance” upgrades.

The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board is conducting a parallel review of Line 5 in the Straits, with a draft report on alternatives released today and a risk report that has been stymied by a conflict of interest, but that process is neither under the rule of law nor complies with the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) or other state and federal law.

“The advisory board’s review is not legally binding and does not replace the DEQ’s independent obligation to determine whether Line 5 should continue.” Kirkwood said.

Of particular concern is Enbridge’s continued failure to predict and prevent the cumulative impacts on Line 5 of lakebed erosion caused by Straits currents that frequently reverse and can exceed 10 times the flow over Niagara Falls.

“Enbridge’s piecemeal approach to managing washouts and installing adequate support under the Straits crossing of Line 5 has resulted in the line frequently being out of compliance with easement support requirements since the 1970’s,” said Ed Timm, PhD, an engineer advising FLOW. “Washouts are inherently unpredictable and it is likely that damage to the pipe has already occurred because of unsupported spans that were not detected and repaired by Enbridge’s two-year inspection and repair schedule.”

Contrary to assertions by Enbridge, the state taking action to stop Line 5’s oil flow in the Mackinac Straits to prevent a catastrophic oil spill would not disrupt Michigan's or the Midwest's crude oil and propane supply, according to a set of expert reports FLOW released in December 2015. 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 Enbridge, but also by competitors supplying the same refineries in Detroit, Toledo, and Sarnia, Ontario.

“The fact is, Line 5 is not essential,” said Rick Kane, a Michigan-based hazardous materials risk management specialist advising 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,” Kane said. “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.”

For more information, visit FLOW’s website at www.FLOWforWater.org/Line-5/ and these links:

  • FLOW’s Public Comments on the Joint Application of Enbridge Energy to Occupy Great Lakes Bottomlands for Anchoring Supports to Transport Crude Oil in Line 5 Pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan [2RD-DFDK-Y35G], submitted June 29, 2017.
  • FLOW’s Public Comments on the Joint Application of Enbridge Energy to Occupy Great Lakes Bottomlands for Anchoring Supports to Transport Crude Oil in Line 5 Pipelines in The Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan [No. 2hb-Vgko-35je], submitted August 25, 2016.
  • Technical Note Regarding Enbridge Line 5 Non-Compliance with 1953 Easement Requirements, A Mechanistic Analysis of Straits Pipeline Washout Phenomena, by Edward E. Timm, PhD, PE, August 20, 2016.
  • Appendices of August 2016: A & B

 

Enbridge’s June 9, 2017, application and public notice can be viewed at:

  • MDEQ website at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/. The public can view the application or submit comments by clicking on the Public Notice Search and entering “Enbridge” in the Applicant Name section or “2RD-DFDK-Y35G” in the Application Number section.

###

PDF of Media Release:

Read FLOW's Comments here: