Is the End-Game near for the Line 5 Pipeline?

Is the End-Game near for the Line 5 Pipeline?
June 13, 2017 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

“The End-Game is Near.”

That’s what one of the members of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board said after the Monday, June 12th meeting in Petoskey concerning the future of the Line 5 Pipeline which runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario and under the Straits of Mackinac.

He was referring to two research papers that will be released on July 6th – Independent Risk and Alternatives Analyses – both of which are centered on the safety of the 64-year old pipeline.

They are papers that could help the State of Michigan decide whether to decommission Line 5, or let it continue operating with new safety measures in place. (The 15-member board, established by Governor Snyder in 2015, can’t make laws, but it can recommend and advise.)

Photo courtesy of Verne Equinox via Wikimedia

Enbridge Building, downtown Edmonton, Alberta, courtesy of Verne Equinox

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s website says Det Norske Veritas (U.S.A.) Inc. and Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc. are conducting  the analysis. It also says, “Enbridge, the owner of the pipelines, has agreed to pay $3,581,294 into an escrow account to fund the studies. Enbridge offered no opinion on the companies independently selected by the State to perform the studies. The State, not Enbridge, will oversee the studies. “

The fact that Enbridge was involved in the studies – in any way at all – did not go over well with most of the public who showed up at Monday’s meeting.

The reports were supposed to be released in time for the June 12th meeting at Petoskey Middle School.  But there was an unexplained delay in the release of those reports on the controversial 645-mile pipeline that carries about 23 million gallons of synthetic crude, natural gas liquids, sweet crude and light sour crude oil per day.

Photo courtesy of nwf.org

Stress corrosion cracking the length of the longitudinal seam on a section of Line 5, courtesy of nwf.org

Experts, including University of Michigan researchers, say a total of 720 miles of Great Lakes shoreline is considered vulnerable to a Straits of Mackinac oil spill.

No one on the board has seen the reports yet. But the Board made it clear that the minute the reports are out in July, they will be available on the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines’ website.

Public comment is welcome; in fact, the board said public response will have an impact on how the board proceeds after the release of the two major reports on the safety of the controversial pipelines.

The board says the website has been re-tooled so large amounts of public comments can be posted and viewed easily after the reports come in.

200 people showed up at Monday’s meeting, many of them protestors. Some came by busses from the Upper Peninsula, Canada, and several lower Peninsula Michigan cities like Grand Rapids and Flint.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Demonstrators outside of Pipeline Safety Advisory Board Meeting, courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

One protester wore a huge puppet costume that looked strikingly similar to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.  Another group of protestors covered their bodies in a substance that looked like oil. Others came dressed in hazmat suits with filter masks.

The public was allowed to comment – for up to 5 minutes at a time  – from 9 am to noon.

And the board got an earful.

Many of the speakers said they were angry about recent alleged reports of previously undisclosed inspections of the Line 5 pipeline from 2003, showing sixteen sections of underwater oil and gas pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac were found unsupported on the bottom of the Great Lakes, and had been buffeted by strong currents for many years.

Others said the fact that Enbridge owns the pipeline that ruptured in the Kalamazoo River in 2010 causing the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history is reason enough to force the closure of Line 5.

Scientists and environmentalists, as well as Audubon Society representatives who brought facts on the impact on wildlife from a potential oil spill, pleaded with board members to recommend the pipeline be decommissioned.

Kate Madigan with the Michigan Environmental Council said, “It’s time for Attorney General Schuette and Gov. Snyder to fulfill their duty to prevent an oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes. Attorney General Schuette publically stated nearly two years ago that Line 5’s days were numbered – and now it’s time for him to take meaningful action and shut down the pipeline, the only way to truly prevent an oil spill.”

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Public reaction at the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board Meeting, courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

At one point, the crowd shouted “Shut it down! Shut it down!” under the watchful eyes of a half dozen police and security officers. But the protesters remained peaceful.

Some Native American protestors said since the land where portions of the pipeline were built were owned by tribal nations, but the tribe was not consulted before the pipeline was constructed, they believed they could prove the pipeline is illegal.

Members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa began the public comment portion of the meeting with a tribal song that honored the water.

David Holtz with the group “Oil and Water Don’t Mix” put it simply. He said, “We’re here today for one reason. Because Line 5 needs to be shut down.”

Note from GLB Chief Mary Ellen Geist: The two studies will be presented on July 6th at 5pm at Holt High School in Holt, Michigan. Greatlakesnow.org will be there to cover the release of those studies.


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