Tag: Pipeline Safety Advisory Board

PR: State of Michigan Takes a “Holiday” from Preventing Line 5 Oil Spill Disaster in Great Lakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         March 9, 2017

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

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

 

State of Michigan Takes a “Holiday” from Preventing Line 5 Oil Spill Disaster in Great Lakes

Snyder Administration Watches and Waits as the 64-year-old Dual Pipelines Missing Their Anti-Rust Coating and Structural Supports Continue to Use Mackinac Straits as a High-Risk Shortcut to Private Profits

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The Snyder administration, in two letters (here and here) released Wednesday, indicated it will seek more information, but take no enforcement action, while continuing to accept Enbridge’s assurances that all is well with dual oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits that the Canadian company itself has indicated are missing portions of an external, anti-rust coating and lacking 18 anchor supports to prevent the pipes from grinding and bending along the bottom and bursting.

The letters – signed by Attorney General Bill Schuette, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether – describe “inviting” Enbridge to explain the company’s September 2016 report that identifies 19 areas along the submerged steel pipes where the anti-corrosion coating is missing. Enbridge’s report euphemistically calls the missing portions “holidays,” industry jargon for areas where the coating has worn or fallen off. The report outlines a plan for assessing Line 5’s integrity where the coating is gone and acidic waste excreted by invasive mussels that blanket the pipes could be causing corrosion.

Enbridge claims that the report is merely “hypothetical,” even though the report flatly states that the external coating is missing and the words “hypothetical” and “theoretical” are not found in the document.

“The State of Michigan is moving in slow motion to question Enbridge’s claims that its own report doesn’t mean what is plainly says,” said Liz Kirkwood, an environmental attorney and executive director of FLOW, a Traverse City-based water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes. “When the pipelines finally fail, will the state invite Enbridge to explain what the thick, black substance is pouring out of the 64-year-old pipes and into the drinking water source for nearby Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and roughly 5 million Michiganders?”

The state issued its March 8 letter in response to February 17 correspondence from the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, which FLOW co-leads with several other leading organizations, that raised grave and detailed concerns about the condition of Line 5 and called for its immediate shutdown.

An Enbridge representative is expected to explain its report at the March 13 quarterly meeting in Lansing of the governor-appointed Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, whose members include Attorney General Schuette. The advisory board is overseeing the completion of two nominally 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 June 2017.

Enbridge is infamous for leaking more than one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed near Marshall, Michigan, in 2010, fouling nearly 40 miles of the river and shore, sickening numerous people, harming wildlife, and forcing more than 100 families to permanently abandon their homes and property.

The failure to adequately maintain the Line 5 pipelines, including a lack of supports to prevent bending of the pipeline – is a breach of Enbridge’s 1953 legal easement agreement with the State of Michigan that allows the company to occupy public waters and state bottomlands. The failures documented in the Enbridge report add to the mounting evidence of the unacceptable risk that this infrastructure poses to the Great Lakes.

A three-minute video of Line 5 pipelines in the Straits, researched and edited by FLOW’s engineering expert Dr. Ed Timm, reveals the physical deterioration of Line 5, with missing and dislodged coating, broken bands, detached wooden structural slats, unsupported segments, and possible rust and pitting.

In addition, a just-released technical note prepared by Dr. Timm regarding Line 5 reinforces the urgent need for the state to immediately shut down Line 5 while it evaluates the integrity of the aging infrastructure that pumps nearly 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Mackinac Straits before eventually reaching refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. Specifically, this technical note concludes the following:

  • Line 5 is not immune to corrosion and stress cracking despite its thick walls, contrary to Enbridge’s claims;
  • The asphalt enamel based coating system is compromised or missing on many areas of the pipe;
  • The extent of the coverage by invasive mussels on the pipelines makes it “impossible” to evaluate how much of the coating system is compromised;
  • The easement-required wooden slats that were designed to protect from point loads and abrasion are missing entirely on portions of the pipelines; and
  • The peak currents in the Mackinac Straits are nearly twice the maximum velocity considered when the pipeline was designed, adding significant stress;
  • A full study of the integrity of the coating system that includes a careful examination of the impact of the biofouling on the pipelines is critical to making a proper fitness-for-service evaluation.

“The evidence demands that the State of Michigan respond and fulfill its affirmative fiduciary duty,” wrote Jim Olson, an environmental attorney and FLOW’s president, in a March 9 follow-up letter to the State of Michigan. “It is not enough to stand by the sidelines and merely request additional information from Enbridge given the high risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that would devastate our public drinking waters and our water-dependent economy. ‘Pure Michigan’ should not just be an advertising slogan.”

For more information, visit the FLOW website at www.FLOWforWater.org

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FINAL FLOW-Line 5 Media Release-Pipeline Coating 3-9-2017

State Advisory Board Must Recognize Urgency, Consider Line 5 Oil Pipeline’s Impact to Inland Waterways and Climate Change

 

Great Lakes Group: State Advisory Board Must Recognize Urgency, Consider Line 5 Oil Pipeline’s Impact to Inland Waterways and Climate Change

 

TRAVERSE CITY – Great Lakes law and policy center FLOW submitted additional comments today to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board in response to its requests for information and proposals to conduct alternatives and risk analyses for the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits.  The group expressed deep concern about the Advisory Board’s lack of urgency addressing the potential for a catastrophic oil spill in the Straits, failure to consider Line 5’s climate change impacts, and the pipeline’s additional threat to inland waterways that feed the Great Lakes.  In response to criticism from concerned groups and citizens about the narrow 5-day comment period, the Advisory Board extended its public comment period to February 16, 2016.

One of the group’s key concerns is the unclear process by which the Advisory Board plans to integrate the two separate risk and alternatives analyses reports.  “This is a critically important step because the level of acceptable risk that is determined in the risk analysis will inform which alternative will ultimately be selected by the state,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “This correlation is essential to this process and must be understood by the contractors and the public.”  Another key issue is the lack of a sense of urgency by the Advisory Board and the entire process as a whole, as evidenced by the lack of any timeline for the review and reporting stage.  “At this time, it appears the current process will run into 2017 and there are no expectations for interim or conclusive measures in the meantime,”  Kirkwood said. A third recommendation is to create one central website accessible to the public that includes all of the Advisory Board’s findings, reports, and opinions as well as all public comments, testimony, and reports related to Line 5.  The group also is calling for more transparency and public comment opportunities on the risk and alternatives analyses reports.

The group’s most substantive remark is the need to recognize climate change and how it impacts our understanding of both the risk and alternatives analyses, given national and global commitments to keep average temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius.  Accordingly, FLOW contends that contractors must assess each alternative’s role in contributing to carbon emissions by examining its fossil fuel emissions, economic viability in a rapidly changing global energy market, and externalized social and environmental costs.  Line 5 is a part of a larger Enbridge network that makes up the world’s largest pipeline system carrying the planet’s dirtiest and most energy-intensive oil – light crude derived Canadian tar sands.  In addition, vulnerable inland sections of Line 5 must be examined as part of the overall analysis.

FLOW submitted separate comments to the Advisory Board last week, before the public comment period was extended. These recommendations included the call for a public peer review of both reports, the importance of defining a broad range system that identifies and reviews the economic impacts to the Great Lakes, and the inclusion of credible worst-case scenarios instead of the antiquated regulations defined by the Dept. of Transportation.  Additional recommendations were to include alternative release and worst-case scenarios in the risk analysis and to address public health impacts on drinking water and air emissions.

View Full Comments: 2/4/16 and 2/12/16 at flowforwater.org.

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