Public Comment to Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board from FLOW’s Executive Director, Elizabeth R. Kirkwood on December 13, 2017
Good evening, and thank you for the opportunity to comment on what is unfortunately
a deeply flawed final Line 5 alternatives study. The people of Michigan are ill-served
by this study. It cannot serve as a basis for an informed and intelligent decision about
the fate of this profound threat to the Great Lakes.
Members of the Advisory Board who represent citizens, businesses, tribes, and
conservation agree that this final report is flawed and demanded this past Monday by
resolution a more robust and comprehensive study on existing pipeline infrastructure
and Michigan’s (not Enbridge’s) energy needs.
Here are only a few of our major concerns with this final report:
- 1: Assumes that the state must guarantee that Enbridge is able to deliver 23
million gallons of oil daily through Line 5. The legal agreement to occupy our
public waters is not a covenant to keep oil pipelines operating indefinitely and at full
capacity. This bias results in the tunnel option appearing as a favored report
- 2: Dismisses the most credible alternative of existing pipeline infrastructure. As
documented in FLOW’s 2015 expert report, existing pipeline infrastructure, including
Enbridge’s newly doubled capacity in Line 6B, is a practical alternative for
Michigan’s energy needs. The report acknowledges that excess pipeline capacity
exists on Enbridge Line 6B (renamed 78) now and that the Mid-Valley Pipeline could
supply much of the remaining needs of the Detroit and Toledo refineries. (5-2; 4-18).
- 3: Operates from a bias in favoring a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac. A tunnel
will not eliminate the risk to the public trust waters of the Great Lakes. Line 5
traverses 245 other water crossings, including ones that are tributaries of Lakes
Michigan, Superior, and Huron. A tunnel is no gift to Michiganders. It threatens
economic and ecological disruption to the region and contravenes Michigan’s policy
ban against directional drilling for oil and gas in the Great Lakes; And fundamentally,
why would Michigan want a Canadian company’s tunnel located under the planet’s
largest fresh system water systems and potentially usher in heavy tar sands transport
back to Canada? This makes no sense.
- 4: Continues to underestimates the economic damage of a Line 5 spill at a $100-200 million. This number defies logic in light of Enbridge’s 2010 $1.2 billion Kalamazoo disaster and the potential catastrophic harm for affected shoreline communities, tourism revenue, drinking water, fisheries, etc.
So where does this leave us? Though this report fails on many levels, it does substantiate the fact that Line 5 can be decommissioned with little disruption and minimal increased costs to Michigan consumers and businesses.
The report affirms that there are feasible and prudent alternatives readily available that both meet Michigan’s energy needs currently served by Line 5 and completely eliminate the risk to the Great Lakes.
The time for studies has ended. It is time for action as the PSAB Resolution affirmed on Monday. That action should start with shutting down Line 5 immediately and ultimately end with state’s revocation of the easement and the decommissioning of Line 5.
The Great Lakes are held in trust by the State of Michigan as public trustee for the benefit of its citizens. The 1953 easement with Enbridge was issued fully subject to the public trust- and the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. The public is the ultimate decision-maker.
Governor Snyder tried to circumvent them through private agreement with Enbridge. Michigan citizens deserve better.
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director