Gridlock on the Great Lakes: ‘Line 5’ Oil Spill Threatens a $45 Billion Blow to Shipping, Steel Production, and Jobs

Michigan's Mackinac Bridge standing guard over the Straits of Mackinac, where Enbridge's decaying Line 5 oil pipelines snake across the bottom and threaten the region's shipping-based economy and jobs.  Photo: Nancy May

Line 5 Economic Report - Shipping Impacts

A Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could trigger a domino effect of damage disrupting Great Lakes commercial shipping and steel production, slashing jobs, and shrinking the nation’s Gross Domestic Product by $45 billion after just 15 days, according to a report FLOW commissioned and released today.

“Oil Spill Economics: Estimates of the Economic Damages of an Oil Spill in the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan, Addendum A | Multibillion-dollar Economic Impact to Great Lakes Shipping, Steel Production, and Jobs” was conducted by Michigan State University’s nationally respected ecological economist Dr. Robert Richardson, in collaboration with MSU PhD student Nathan Brugnone. The report is an addendum to a study released last May that found more than $6 billion in direct economic impacts to tourism, property values, and more under a realistic – not worst-case – spill scenario.

Dr. Robert Richardson, Michigan State University

Dr. Robert Richardson is an ecological economist and Associate Professor at Michigan State University with interests in the study of the environment and development, particularly the contribution of ecosystem services to socioeconomic well-being. He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Colorado State University. His research, teaching, and outreach program focuses primarily on sustainable development, and he uses a variety of methods from the behavioral and social sciences to study decision-making about the use of natural resources and the values of ecosystem services. He has conducted research related to the economic impacts of changes in environmental quality, and tradeoffs in decision-making about environmental management in southern and eastern Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia, as well as in various regions of the USA. His work has been published in Ecological EconomicsJournal of Environmental Management, and World Development.

Dr. Richardson is an affiliate faculty member with MSU's Environmental Science and Policy Program. He is a former member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and former chairperson of the subcommittee on Sustainable and Healthy Communities. He is a former officer and board member of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics, and a member of the International Society for Ecological Economics.