By Liz Kirkwood, FLOW Executive Director
The Great Lakes are no safer from an oil pipeline spill today despite yesterday’s release of the State of Michigan Pipeline Task Force’s 80-page report and recommendations.
The Task Force report included four recommendations directed at Enbridge’s twin 62-year-old petroleum pipelines located on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac: (1) Ban transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits pipelines; (2) Require an independent risk analysis and full insurance coverage for the pipelines; (3) Require an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing pipelines; (4) Obtain more inspection data from Enbridge relating to the pipelines.
Yet, oil still flows through Line 5. The Task Force rejected shutting down Line 5 while gathering additional information on the basis that they had “inadequate information at this time to fully evaluate the risks presented by the Straits Pipelines.” (P. 57)
Impose Emergency Measures Immediately
At a minimum, however, the Task Force should impose immediate emergency measures on the pipeline given (1) potential violations of the 1953 Easement related to Enbridge’s inability to demonstrate that it has adequate liability coverage to cover all damages from an oil spill; (2) the Coast Guard’s admission that it is inadequately prepared to clean up an open water spill in freshwater let alone under frozen winter conditions; (3) Enbridge’s failure to disclose inspection, maintenance, and repair records to document internal and external corrosion rates under the Straits and inherent limitations related to inline inspection tools.
The question remains: how much more information do we need to unveil before our trustee – the State – takes swift protective action that prioritizes the paramount interests of citizens over private corporations?
The Task Force and the public have rejected the idea that the Straits Pipelines can last indefinitely. In fact, the Attorney General Bill Schuette has declared that “the days of letting two controversial oil pipelines operate under the Straits of Mackinac are numbered.” This is hopeful news, but every day counts, and until we have specific measures in place that prevent a catastrophic spill, the State of Michigan is placing the Great Lakes at risk.