Ecological disasters do not wait for political elections.
And Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac seems oblivious to the campaign calendar.
To date, the Band-Aid fix-it approach for line 5 has only resulted in Band-Aid size – oh, I mean dinnerplate size -- bare metal spots on the pipeline itself.
The law is clear. Public trust waters are the paramount interest and must be the priority of state protection and action.
Enbridge's ongoing violations on Line 5 are blindingly obvious. And they have continued to mount over the last three years while the state has delayed a safe solution through endless study. A quick sampling of violations includes: lack of adequate anchor supports, loss of protective coating, bent pipeline, bare metal, lack of a credible emergency oil spill response plan, deficient liability insurance, and so on.
Time and time again, Enbridge has asked the public and the state to trust them. And we have only later found out that Enbridge has misled the citizens of Michigan and the state government about the true condition of their aging 64-year-old dual pipelines.
Enbridge has an outstanding permit request to install 22 additional anchors. But the state is in no position to authorize these permits because the anchors themselves have caused the bare metal exposure on the pipeline.
Now the state has decided to engage university experts to spend months finishing a risk study put on hold last summer due to contractor conflicts of interest. A risk study only further delays meaningful state action on Line 5 to avoid a pipeline oil spill. We already know that the risk of any oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes is unacceptable. Thus, we are merely asking ourselves: How fast will the Titanic sink? 1 hour or 3 hours.
Any credible risk study will simply conjure a more realistic disaster scenario than Enbridge would like us to imagine. It appears that the state is committed to completing the risk study; however, it should at the very least recommend that the state temporarily shut down the flow of oil while the risk study marches on.
No one today would ever authorize oil pipelines to pump 23,000,000 gallons of oil daily in the open waters of the Great Lakes. While consultants completes a risk analysis, the state at a bare minimum should temporarily shut down the flow of oil.
So let's be clear ourselves. Line 5 must be decommissioned and we, the citizens of Michigan, demand that this process starts immediately.
The time to act is now.
Liz Kirkwood is FLOW's Executive Director, an environmental lawyer with seventeen years of experience working on water, sanitation, energy, and environmental governance issues both nationally and internationally. She oversees the direction of the organization, prioritizing policy research and corresponding educational initiatives to ensure their consistency and high quality.