There were boos and cries of “shut it down” from protesters at the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in Lansing on Monday, March 13th, as Enbridge official Kurt Baraniecki responded to questions about a leaked report showing what are described as “holidays” along the 64-year old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.
The recently leaked report prompted Attorney General Bill Schuette, Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh and Department of Environmental Quality director Heidi Grether to send a letter to Enbridge on March 8 to clarify questions about the pipeline’s safety and provide test results as well as all other Line 5 inspection documents created since 2014.
Baraniecki, who is Enbridge’s pipeline integrity programs director, said at Monday’s meeting that referring to spots that had what he called “worn off lamination” as “holidays” was a mistake. He said “the system does not have holidays.” And he assured the public that “Enbridge is constantly doing integrity management on the pipeline”.
Board members asked many questions about the durability and endurance of the Line 5 pipeline.
Baraniecki said it was only the “outer coating” that was subject to wear and tear, not the pipeline itself. However, he said Enbridge will do a series of tests pumping only water through the pipeline and increase the pressure from 150 pounds to 600 pounds during the test to make sure the pipeline can withstand increased stress.
He said, “I believe this pipeline is in as good of condition as the day it was installed”.
The pipeline, built in 1953, pumps 23 million gallons of synthetic crude oil and liquefied natural gas through the Straits of Mackinac each day. It runs approximately 700 miles from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Many environmentalists, business leaders and lawmakers are calling for the pipeline to be decommissioned, and the cry to halt the pipeline has gotten louder since the recent leaked report.
Hundreds of protesters showed up for Monday’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting, many of them Native Americans from Northern Michigan. They held signs that said “LIE 5” (instead of Line 5) and “SHUT DOWN LINE 5 NOW.”
There were also several representatives of Michigan’s oil and gas refineries who spoke in support of the pipeline, and urged Michigan officials not to shut it down because of the thousands of jobs it creates and supports.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Dr. Ed Timm, a retired Dow Chemical engineer who has conducted his own research on the pipeline, said Enbridge’s Baraniecki has it all wrong. He said the currents under the straits, which come at the pipeline from two directions have fatigued the metal significantly in ways Enbridge hasn’t measured. He said the pipeline is “just one incident away” from failure and a potential environmental disaster. D. Timm says “there are some questions that need to be answered before the pipeline should be allowed to run in an unrestricted way.”
Fred Harrington and his grandson Riley slathered their bodies in syrup that looked like black oil to show what would happen to birds and fish if there was a massive oil spill in the Great Lakes. Harrington said, “It’s really difficult to think into the future and see what our wildlife will look like if that pipeline breaks”. Many Native Americans who spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting said their livelihoods were dependent on the pure fresh water of the Great Lakes, and the pipeline threatens their jobs and way of life.
Ryan Duffy, spokesperson for Enbridge, tells Great Lakes Now “what people often don’t realize is that the pipeline provides 65 percent of the propane used in the Upper Peninsula, 55 percent of the propane used across the state of Michigan, and that 80 percent of the oil produced in Michigan uses Line 5 to get to refineries.” He says Enbridge employs 150 jobs for people who live on and near the Great Lakes. And he adds, “Enbridge paid 38 million dollars in property taxes in 2015.”
Those facts and figures, however pale in comparison for many people who are worried about the possible danger of a pipeline break, rupture or leak under the Straits of Mackinac.
Sean McBrearty with the group called Clean Water Action tells Great Lakes Now, “The time for stall tactics is over. The Governor and the Attorney General should do the right thing for our lakes and shut down Line 5 now before the next major environmental disaster happens on their watch.’
Two independent contractors are doing two reports involving risks and alternatives assessments of the pipeline which will be presented to the Pipeline Advisory Board in draft form sometime in June. The public will be allowed to comment after the reports have been submitted.
The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board also introduced a new website for information as well as public comment: https://mipetroleumpipelines.com/