TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian oil transport company Enbridge Inc. announced an agreement Monday intended to boost the safety of twin oil pipelines beneath the waterway where Lakes Michigan and Huron converge.
The deal does not call for the decommissioning of Line 5 as environmental groups have demanded, although it does include a procedure for temporarily halting the flow of oil through the 5-mile-long underwater segment when storms cause sustained periods of high waves.
It also calls for a study to examine the possibility of digging a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac through which the existing pipelines – or a new one – could be routed. The two 20-inch lines have lain on the lakebed since 1953.
“That [study] will look at a number of alternatives. The one I’ll support is a new line, that’s what I want to see ultimately happen,” U.S. Congressman Fred Upton told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “We’re going to stay on their case. We’re going to stay looking over their shoulder. They’ve agreed to look at a number of different alternatives and by next summer see the direction where we want to go.”
It also calls for steps to allow faster detection of and quicker response to a potential spill.
“Business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable and we are going to ensure the highest level of environmental safety standards are implemented to protect one of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources,” Snyder said in a statement posted online.
Line 5 is a 645-mile line that runs from Superior, Wisconsin, through northern Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario.
The company says the 5-mile underwater segment is safe, but environmental groups and some officials have raised concerns about recent disclosures of gaps in protective enamel coating.
Mike Shriberg, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center and a member of Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board sent the following statement to 24 Hour News 8 in reaction to the agreement:
“The National Wildlife Federation’s primary concern is with the safety and health of the Great Lakes and the people who rely upon them for drinking water, recreation and our economy. We are concerned that this agreement shortcuts exploration of better options for protecting the Great Lakes and our economy by favoring the option of tunneling under the Straits of Mackinac. This option still leaves Michigan with all the risks of Line 5 while receiving very few of the benefits. It operates under the false pretense that Line 5 is critical energy infrastructure for the state. The agreement appears to favor the interests of Enbridge over those of Michiganders and our Great Lakes. Under the tunnel scenario, the Great Lakes remain a shortcut for mostly Canadian oil to reach mostly Canadian and export markets without providing significant value to Michigan and the Great Lakes states.
“With this agreement, the state continues to lean heavily on Enbridge to provide critical information when past dealings with Enbridge have proven this to be problematic at best. The Alternatives Analysis report, commissioned by the state, clearly outlines less risky alternatives and notes that fuel supply needs throughout the state can be met by other means. I am personally disappointed that the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, of which I am a member, was not consulted prior to the Governor reaching this agreement despite our explicit role of providing input, suggesting that our role in this process is ornamental at best. The Governor can and should do better, and we hope he will do so before making a final decision in August.”