Tag: Oil & Water Don’t Mix

PR: In Wake of New Pipeline Concerns, Groups Call On Snyder, Schuette to Begin Shutting Down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, February 20, 2017

Media Contact:  David Holtz 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org

 

In Wake of New Pipeline Concerns, Groups Call On Snyder,

Schuette to Begin Shutting Down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac

Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette must require Enbridge to shut off the flow of oil through Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac following disclosures that the Canadian oil transport company’s pipeline has lost its protective coating, citizens groups said in a letter to the governor and attorney general that was released today.  

The alarming disclosures, contained in a report filed by Enbridge in September with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, documents areas along the pipeline in the turbulent Straits where anticorrosion protective coating is missing.   The report was submitted by Enbridge as part of a federal court order directing the company to investigate the impact of invasive mussels that have accumulated along the nearly 5-mile twin pipelines in the Straits.

“It’s shocking that Enbridge is going around the state claiming Line 5 is as good as new and will last forever while at the same time they know these pipelines are falling apart in the worst possible place for an oil spill,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW.  “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette must initiate the process of shutting down these dangerous pipelines and should begin doing it today—before they rupture.”

In a letter sent Friday to Snyder and Schuette, the groups say failure to maintain protective anti-corrosion coating violates the state’s 1953 easement agreement allowing Enbridge to operate pipelines in the Straits.  Enbridge has twice previously violated the agreement by failing to maintain required pipeline anchors. 

“Research shared with you previously warned that pipeline corrosion had negatively impacted protective coating; the missing protective coating, corrosion, and the weight of invasive mussels and Enbridge’s decision to increase the volume of oil flowing through the Straits pipelines creates a substantial and unacceptable risk of failure,” the groups told Snyder and Schuette in their Friday letter.  “The further admission and documentation from Enbridge that the protective pipeline coating is falling off and missing increases the likelihood of damaging corrosion and a pipeline rupture and the disastrous consequences that would follow.  Under the terms of the easement, public trust duties, and the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, as trustees you are required to act to prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

In a previous letter sent to to Attorney General Schuette in April 2016, the groups outlined the process for terminating the state’s easement with Enbridge based on several easement violations and subsequently met with Schuette’s senior staff to discuss the process.   Thus far, however, there has been no action taken to begin decommissioning Line 5.  Instead the state has commissioned a study of alternatives to Line 5, with the results expected to be released in June.

“This latest revelation is yet another a wakeup call for the state,” said David Holtz, Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee. “The question is whether the state will continue to hit the snooze alarm or rise up to the threat from aging oil pipelines in the Great Lakes.”

Research conducted by organizations supporting the decommissioning of Line 5 has shown that pipeline corrosion and structural integrity questions point to an urgent need for the state to act.

“We’ve always known that this 64-year-old pipeline was constructed only to last just 50 years. Now we’re seeing the disastrous effects of placing big oil and gas interests before public health,” said Food & Water Watch Michigan Organizer Mariah Urueta. “If Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette continue to side with Enbridge and refuse to shut down Line 5, Michigan’s water, communities and way of life are in dire jeopardy. Line 5 is no longer a pipeline -it’s a ticking time bomb that will destroy our resources if we don’t defuse it and shut down Line 5 today.”

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Enbridge report: http://bit.ly/enbridge-biota-report

Letter to Snyder & Schuette:  http://bit.ly/snyder-schuette-letter

State Has Ignored Enbridge’s Line 5 Straits Pipeline Violations

Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline during construction and installation, 1953.

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline during construction and installation, 1953.

 

Although Attorney General Bill Schuette and top state environmental agency directors yesterday notified Enbridge of violations of its agreement to operate oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, officials only did so several months after being told by experts that powerful currents had washed away critical pipeline support infrastructure.

Schuette, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wednesday told Enbridge it was in violation of pipeline requirements in its easement agreement with the state. But researchers documented last April cracks, dents, corrosion and structural defects in the twin Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits.

Those concerns were raised by FLOW and other organizations in letters and meetings with state officials.  The groups say Enbridge’s easement violations are part of a pattern and practice where the Canadian transport giant avoids accountability because of infrequent pipeline inspections.

“These are known problems that fundamentally threaten our public waters and should have been addressed much sooner than this week,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW.  “Now we see some progress from the state in enforcing its agreement.

“But what we need is for the attorney general and governor to act with much more urgency and prioritize protecting the Great Lakes.  That means ending the state’s agreement that allows Enbridge to continue sending oil through the Straits.”

“Unless the attorney general and other state officials follow through, this week’s violation notice will just be window-dressing,” said Kirkwood. “The concerns are too many and too risky for the state to continue to allow oil to flow through the Straits.”

The easement agreement that is at the center of this week’s action by the state is meant to enforce safety and other conditions for operating the risky Straits oil pipelines.  Under the 1953 easement, the state must give Canadian-based Enbridge 90 days to resolve any known easement violations.

Since at least April, said Kirkwood, the state has had substantial legal and factual cause to terminate the agreement with Enbridge.  Kirkwood’s group and others sent an April 13 letter to Schuette and Snyder outlining multiple easement violations, including those cited by the state this week in its notice to Enbridge.  They also discussed these violations and federal and state law violations with top officials in the attorney general’s office.

In their April 13 letter to Schuette and Snyder, FLOW and other groups identified eight specific violations of the easement agreement and state law, including:

  • Concealing information about cracks, dents, and rust with continued, sweeping assertions and misrepresentations that the Straits pipelines are in “excellent condition, almost as new as when they were built and installed” and have “no observed corrosion.” Of the nine rust spots on the eastern Straits pipeline, corrosion has eaten away 26 percent of the pipeline’s wall thickness in a 7-inch-long area, according to newly released company data.
  • Failing to meet the pipeline wall thickness requirement due to manufacturing defects. Newly released Enbridge data reveals that manufacturing defects in the 1950s resulted in pipeline wall thickness of less than half an inch in perhaps hundreds of sections and up to 41 less thick than mandated on the west Straits pipeline. Enbridge continues to boast about its “nearly one-inch-thick walls of Line 5’s steel pipe travelling under the Straits.” 
  • Failing to meet the “reasonably prudent person” provision by claiming that its steel pipelines lying underwater just west of the Mackinac Bridge since 1953 can last forever and do not require a plan for eventual decommissioning. The 63-year-old pipelines were built to last 50 years.
  • Failing to demonstrate adequate liability insurance, maintain required coating and wood-slat covering to prevent rust and abrasion, adequately support the pipeline resulting in stressed and deformed segments, and adhere to federal spill response and state environmental protection laws, including Act 10 of P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), and public trust law.

The twin Enbridge Line 5 oil pipelines lying exposed in the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, are a high-risk shortcut moving up to 23 million gallons of oil and propane a day primarily from western Canadian oil fields to eastern Canadian refineries, as well as on to Montreal and export markets. Research shows there are alternatives to Line 5 that do not threaten the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

To date, more than 60 cities, villages, townships, counties and tribal organizations across Michigan have voted to call on the governor and attorney general to stop the oil flowing through the Straits, including Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and the cities of Cheboygan, Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. Dramatic new research from the University of Michigan released in late March shows an Enbridge oil pipeline rupture in the Mackinac Straits could impact more than 700 miles of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron coastlines, as well as more than 15% of Lake Michigan’s open water and nearly 60% of Lake Huron’s open water.

 

Enbridge Operating Line 5 Illegally

Citing new research and documentation revealing cracks, dents, corrosion, and structural defects in the twin oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, 22 environmental and tribal groups today formally requested that Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette shut down “Line 5” oil in the Straits based on Enbridge’s multiple easement violations. The violations mean Enbridge is operating illegally and has broken its legal agreement with the state and people of Michigan.

Enbridge’s ongoing violations related to pipeline design threaten the very safety and health of the Great Lakes, and thus trigger the state’s duty to enforce its agreement with Enbridge. Under the 1953 easement, the state must provide Canadian-based energy transporter Enbridge 90 days to resolve any known easement violations.  The state now has substantial legal and factual cause to terminate the agreement with Enbridge to stop the oil flow and protect the Great Lakes, public water supplies, and the Pure Michigan economy, according to an April 13 letter to Snyder and Schuette, signed by partner groups in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign.

“The law and this easement agreement are clear: state leaders cannot wait another year or more while Enbridge continues to violate safety conditions it agreed to and withholds safety inspection and other data from the public and the state,” said environmental attorney Liz  Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW (For Love of Water) in Traverse City. “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette must start the clock to terminate the state’s easement agreement that allows Enbridge to operate the Line 5 pipelines on state-owned bottomlands and waters.”

In their letter, the groups identified eight specific violations of the easement and state law, including:

  • Concealing information about cracks, dents, and corrosion with continued, sweeping assertions and misrepresentations that the Straits pipelines are in “excellent condition, almost as new as when they were built and installed” and have “no observed corrosion.” Of the nine rust spots on the eastern Straits pipeline, corrosion has eaten away 26 percent of the pipeline’s wall thickness in a 7-inch-long area, according to newly released company data.
  • Failing to meet the pipeline wall thickness requirement due to corrosion and manufacturing defects. Newly released Enbridge data reveals that manufacturing defects in the 1950s resulted in pipeline wall thickness of less than half an inch in perhaps hundreds of sections and up to 41 percent less thick than mandated on the west Straits pipeline. Enbridge continues to boast about its “nearly one-inch-thick walls of Line 5’s steel pipe travelling under the Straits.”
  • Failing to meet the “reasonably prudent person” provision by claiming that its steel pipelines lying underwater just west of the Mackinac Bridge since 1953 can last forever and do not require a plan for eventual decommissioning. The 63-year-old pipelines were built to last 50 years.
  • Failing to demonstrate adequate liability insurance, maintain required coating and wood-slat covering to prevent rust and abrasion and adequately support the pipeline, resulting in stressed and deformed segments.
  • Failing to adhere to federal emergency spill response and state environmental protection laws, including Act 10 of P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), and public trust law.

The twin Enbridge Line 5 oil pipelines lying exposed in the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, are a high-risk shortcut moving up to 23 million gallons of oil and propane a day primarily from western Canadian oil fields to eastern Canadian refineries, as well as on to Montreal and export markets. FLOW’s research shows there are alternatives to Line 5 that do not threaten the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, and do not disrupt Michigan’s oil and gas supply.

“Enbridge has consistently failed to provide appropriate documentation to the state and the public that supports its position that Line 5 is fit for service”, said Ed Timm, PhD, PE, a retired chemical engineer and former senior scientist and consultant to Dow Chemical’s Environmental Operations Business, who advises the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign. “The historical record and the documentation that Enbridge has provided raise many questions that suggest this unique pipeline no longer conforms to its original design specifications and easement requirements.”

Dozens of local communities and organizations, hundreds of businesses, and thousands of individuals and families support efforts by the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to prevent a catastrophic oil spill by stopping the oil flowing through Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits, which University of Michigan experts have called the “worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.” Enbridge has a long history of oil spills from Line 5, which runs from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ont., and is responsible for 2010’s million-gallon oil spill disaster into the Kalamazoo River that cost $1.2 billion to clean up to the extent possible.

“I think pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, but because of the conditions of the Straits and the age of the pipelines, it is past time for an independent analysis to ensure the safety of this line for the citizens of Michigan,” said James Tamlyn, Chair of the Emmet County Board of Commissioners, which passed a resolution in December calling on the Snyder administration to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. “There’s one thing we all agree on and that’s the importance of protecting our clean water.  It defines us and without it, our communities and businesses would be wiped out.”

To date, more than 30 cities, villages, townships, and counties across Michigan have voted to call on the governor and attorney general to stop the oil flowing through the Straits, including Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and the cities of Cheboygan, Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. Dramatic new research from the University of Michigan released in late March shows an Enbridge oil pipeline rupture in the Mackinac Straits could impact more than 700 miles of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron coastlines, as well as more than 15% of Lake Michigan’s open water and nearly 60% of Lake Huron’s open water.

“The effects of an oil spill in the Mackinac Straits would have catastrophic consequences for our area and for all Michiganders for years to come,” said Bobie Crongeyer, a community leader with Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice & the Environment, which has advanced resolutions to shut down Line 5 in many communities. “Tourists will find other places to vacation, while we will be left with the devastation that Enbridge leaves behind, including a poisoned fishery and drinking water supplies and a shattered economy.”

115-CE Pipeline Fact Sheet-rev

Read the full letter issued to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette.