Tag: Enbridge

Enbridge Downplaying the Potential Size of Catastrophic “Line 5” Straits Oil Spill

 

In the last two years, Enbridge has cut nearly in half its estimate of the likely size of an oil spill from a pair of aging pipelines that move nearly 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Mackinac Straits, while independent studies suggest the risk is much greater and growing. Read the full findings by engineer and FLOW technical expert Gary Street. 

President of WTCM Radio and FLOW Board Member Ross Biederman Speaks Out Against Line 5

Ross Biederman, owner of Midwest Broadcasting, issued a broadcast and print editorial today urging our political leaders and those running for office to  help shut down the flow of crude oil through Line 5 in the Straits.  Biederman warns it is too dangerous, the harm too devastating, and the risk too high to continue operating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.  In a no nonsense, strong voice, he concludes oil in the Straits pipeline should be eliminated, there are alternatives for the crude synthetic lighter oil to get there and to satisfy the smaller needs of a refinery in Michigan, and most of the oil goes to Canada anyway, and that citizens should take action by demanding that their leaders take charge and act on this issue.  Read print copy of Ross’s broadcast below and listen to the radio spot here.

 

Transcript of Biederman Editorial

If you think the Flint water crises was Catastrophe that could have been avoided by the state of Michigan imagine an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac. Lurking beneath the water at the straits lies a 4 ½ mile long pipeline carrying about 500,000 barrels or 23 million gallons of liquid petroleum…crude…each day. The pipeline is owned by a Canadian company, Enbridge. It’s referred to as Line 5 and it carries crude from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. Line 5 is 63 years old and has never been thoroughly inspected by The State of Michigan. Here are just two potential problem areas. The welding techniques used in 1953 are out-dated. Also, the pipeline is covered in zebra mussels making comprehensive visual inspection difficult if not impossible.

Michigan’s Attorney General has the authority to order Line 5 shut down, but has not done so. He has ordered more studies which could take up to a year and a half. You have the power to do something! Bills have been introduced in both Michigan’s House and Senate that would accomplish this. They haven’t gone to committee yet and probably will not before the Legislatures’ Summer Recess. What can you do? Tell your State Representative and Senator to get off the dime and move this legislation. An oil spill at the Straits could foul both Lake Michigan and Huron because of the currents. Imagine it happening during the winter under the ice. The University of Michigan said the Mackinac Straits would be the worst possible place for an oil spill. I should mention that is was an Enbridge pipeline failure that dumped 840,000 gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River in 2010…the largest inland spill in US history.

So make your voice be heard to end this potential danger to our ecology and economy. This is an election year. Every state representative is up for re-election as is half the Senate.

And by the way, it isn’t like we’d be cutting off our supply of oil. Enbridge has built a new pipeline…Line 6…that’s has twice the capacity. Line 6 runs through Wisconsin, around Chicago, and across Southern Michigan to Sarnia.

Michigan only gets 10-12% of the crude anyway….the rest goes to Canada.

With election nearing, now is the time to demand that candidates pledge to take action closing Line 5!

Enbridge Operating Line 5 Illegally

Citing new research and documentation revealing cracks, dents, corrosion, and structural defects in the twin oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, 22 environmental and tribal groups today formally requested that Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette shut down “Line 5” oil in the Straits based on Enbridge’s multiple easement violations. The violations mean Enbridge is operating illegally and has broken its legal agreement with the state and people of Michigan.

Enbridge’s ongoing violations related to pipeline design threaten the very safety and health of the Great Lakes, and thus trigger the state’s duty to enforce its agreement with Enbridge. Under the 1953 easement, the state must provide Canadian-based energy transporter Enbridge 90 days to resolve any known easement violations.  The state now has substantial legal and factual cause to terminate the agreement with Enbridge to stop the oil flow and protect the Great Lakes, public water supplies, and the Pure Michigan economy, according to an April 13 letter to Snyder and Schuette, signed by partner groups in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign.

“The law and this easement agreement are clear: state leaders cannot wait another year or more while Enbridge continues to violate safety conditions it agreed to and withholds safety inspection and other data from the public and the state,” said environmental attorney Liz  Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW (For Love of Water) in Traverse City. “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette must start the clock to terminate the state’s easement agreement that allows Enbridge to operate the Line 5 pipelines on state-owned bottomlands and waters.”

In their letter, the groups identified eight specific violations of the easement and state law, including:

  • Concealing information about cracks, dents, and corrosion with continued, sweeping assertions and misrepresentations that the Straits pipelines are in “excellent condition, almost as new as when they were built and installed” and have “no observed corrosion.” Of the nine rust spots on the eastern Straits pipeline, corrosion has eaten away 26 percent of the pipeline’s wall thickness in a 7-inch-long area, according to newly released company data.
  • Failing to meet the pipeline wall thickness requirement due to corrosion and manufacturing defects. Newly released Enbridge data reveals that manufacturing defects in the 1950s resulted in pipeline wall thickness of less than half an inch in perhaps hundreds of sections and up to 41 percent less thick than mandated on the west Straits pipeline. Enbridge continues to boast about its “nearly one-inch-thick walls of Line 5’s steel pipe travelling under the Straits.”
  • Failing to meet the “reasonably prudent person” provision by claiming that its steel pipelines lying underwater just west of the Mackinac Bridge since 1953 can last forever and do not require a plan for eventual decommissioning. The 63-year-old pipelines were built to last 50 years.
  • Failing to demonstrate adequate liability insurance, maintain required coating and wood-slat covering to prevent rust and abrasion and adequately support the pipeline, resulting in stressed and deformed segments.
  • Failing to adhere to federal emergency spill response and state environmental protection laws, including Act 10 of P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), and public trust law.

The twin Enbridge Line 5 oil pipelines lying exposed in the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, are a high-risk shortcut moving up to 23 million gallons of oil and propane a day primarily from western Canadian oil fields to eastern Canadian refineries, as well as on to Montreal and export markets. FLOW’s research shows there are alternatives to Line 5 that do not threaten the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, and do not disrupt Michigan’s oil and gas supply.

“Enbridge has consistently failed to provide appropriate documentation to the state and the public that supports its position that Line 5 is fit for service”, said Ed Timm, PhD, PE, a retired chemical engineer and former senior scientist and consultant to Dow Chemical’s Environmental Operations Business, who advises the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign. “The historical record and the documentation that Enbridge has provided raise many questions that suggest this unique pipeline no longer conforms to its original design specifications and easement requirements.”

Dozens of local communities and organizations, hundreds of businesses, and thousands of individuals and families support efforts by the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to prevent a catastrophic oil spill by stopping the oil flowing through Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits, which University of Michigan experts have called the “worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.” Enbridge has a long history of oil spills from Line 5, which runs from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ont., and is responsible for 2010’s million-gallon oil spill disaster into the Kalamazoo River that cost $1.2 billion to clean up to the extent possible.

“I think pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, but because of the conditions of the Straits and the age of the pipelines, it is past time for an independent analysis to ensure the safety of this line for the citizens of Michigan,” said James Tamlyn, Chair of the Emmet County Board of Commissioners, which passed a resolution in December calling on the Snyder administration to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. “There’s one thing we all agree on and that’s the importance of protecting our clean water.  It defines us and without it, our communities and businesses would be wiped out.”

To date, more than 30 cities, villages, townships, and counties across Michigan have voted to call on the governor and attorney general to stop the oil flowing through the Straits, including Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and the cities of Cheboygan, Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. Dramatic new research from the University of Michigan released in late March shows an Enbridge oil pipeline rupture in the Mackinac Straits could impact more than 700 miles of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron coastlines, as well as more than 15% of Lake Michigan’s open water and nearly 60% of Lake Huron’s open water.

“The effects of an oil spill in the Mackinac Straits would have catastrophic consequences for our area and for all Michiganders for years to come,” said Bobie Crongeyer, a community leader with Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice & the Environment, which has advanced resolutions to shut down Line 5 in many communities. “Tourists will find other places to vacation, while we will be left with the devastation that Enbridge leaves behind, including a poisoned fishery and drinking water supplies and a shattered economy.”

115-CE Pipeline Fact Sheet-rev

Read the full letter issued to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette.

Great Lakes Lawyers & Scientists Urge Gov. Snyder & AG Schuette: Imminent Hazard Requires Immediate Actions to Eliminate Oil Risk in Straits of Mackinac

Filling a void left by the state, a Great Lakes law and policy group and its scientific advisors released a report today calling on the Snyder administration to take interim steps – including the immediate temporary halt of oil flowing through two aging pipelines in the Mackinac Straits – and swiftly pursue an “action plan” to prevent an oil spill that likely could not be cleaned up and would threaten the state and regional economy, a vital fishery, and the drinking water supply for Mackinac Island and St. Ignace.

“The Michigan Task Force and Attorney General Schuette have determined that the magnitude of harm from a release of oil in the Straits is unacceptable, and that the days of these aging pipelines for transport of oil are limited,” said Jim Olson, a Traverse City attorney and President of FLOW.  “According to FLOW’s scientific experts, the transport of oil under the Straits is an imminent hazard that is at the highest level risk. Based on standard hazardous management practices, this means that interim measures that significantly lower the risk must be immediately implemented.  This also requires an immediate independent evaluation of alternative pipeline routes, capacity and logistics to eliminate the high risk of serious harm.  Until this evaluation is done, the reasonable and prudent thing to do is to halt the transport of crude oil under the Straits.”

“An effective oil spill response and recovery is virtually impossible, particularly in winter months when the Straits are covered with four feet of ice,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director.  “According to our scientists, shutting off the flow of oil under the Straits won’t interfere with natural gas liquids, such as propane used for home heating, because they do not pose the same risk to the Straits and would continue to flow to residents in the Upper and northern Lower Peninsulas.”

The 33-page report on the Enbridge “Line 5” pipelines points to new findings, including the pipeline company’s own admission that tens of thousands of gallons of oil a day could leak into the Mackinac Straits undetected, to conclude that an “imminent harm” to the Great Lakes exists and must be stopped. The report also finds that at least one of the Straits pipelines is dented despite Enbridge’s reassurances otherwise and that the wooden slats meant to surround and protect the outside of the pipelines are missing.

“Analysis of these issues, as documented by several reports, now leads me to the conclusion that Line 5 is far more likely to present an imminent threat to health and property than not,” said Ed Timm, PhD., PE, a former senior scientist and consultant to Dow Chemical’s Environmental Operations Business and member of the FLOW expert team.  “Immediate action should be taken to assure the safety of Line 5 while the legal deliberations go on.”

The report released by FLOW, an independent nonprofit organization that evaluates Great Lakes scientific and policy issues, is intended to fill and strengthen the gap left by a state task force report issued in July that made important recommendations for assessing the risk and seeking alternatives to the Enbridge oil pipelines, but lacked action steps and a timetable. The FLOW report charts a course with clear actions to the Snyder administration and Attorney General Schuette who are charged with the responsibility of implementing the state task force recommendations and protecting the Mackinac Straits and Great Lakes from any release of oil with serious and catastrophic consequences.

The FLOW report concludes that the current use of Line 5 for the transport of crude oil “poses a high level of risk and imminent high magnitude of harm,” and proposes a specific action plan to eliminate the harm, including to:

  1. Promptly conduct an independent expert alternatives assessment regarding transport of crude oil in Line 5 through the Straits segment, as called for by the state task force;
  2. Convene and complete immediately an independent risk analysis based on credible, worst-case scenarios;
  3. Require adequate financial assurances and an approved emergency response plan by independent qualified experts that conform to the level of risk and worst-case scenarios;
  4. Require immediate submission of additional verifiable information from Enbridge and other qualified and independent sources.
  5. Take immediate enforcement actions against Enbridge to address any material violations of the state-granted 1953 easement allowing Enbridge to occupy state bottomlands in the Straits.
  6. Exercise the full authority under our constitution and laws, including common law and the public trust, that eliminate or prevent the failure of Line 5 under the Straits.

Built in 1953 during the Eisenhower administration, the aging Enbridge pipelines push nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids a day through the Mackinac Straits, which the company uses as a shortcut for its Line 5 route from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario. Canadian-based Enbridge is infamous for its Line 6B pipeline that corroded and spilled 1 million gallons of heavy tar sands oil in 2010 into the Kalamazoo River watershed near Marshall, Michigan.

Enbridge estimates that a “worst-case” spill from Line 5 in winter would dump up to 360,000 gallons of oil in the Mackinac Straits and would cost as much as $900 million to clean up, not including any damages to persons, property, or natural resources for which Enbridge is liable, nor for any fines or penalties. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-site oil cleanup coordinator said in March 2015 that in good conditions, no more than half of the oil spilled in open water is ever recovered. The U.S. Coast Guard Commandant in April testified to Congress that he is “not comfortable” with the current contingency plans for a worst‐case spill in the Great Lakes.

In the report, FLOW’s science and technical advisors reached several key findings, including that Enbridge’s own documents filed with the state show that 140,000 gallons of oil per day can leak into the Great Lakes at the Mackinac Straits from Enbridge’s aging Line 5 oil pipelines without Enbridge detecting it or triggering its “automatic” shutoff valves because of the technological limits of its equipment.

“A permanent solution – eliminating the Line 5 Straits crossing – may take time, but short-term action to immediately reduce the risk should be undertaken.” said Rick Kane, a hazardous materials risk-management specialist and member of the FLOW expert team. “The Line 5 crossing is a high risk due to the severe consequences of a leak and probability that a leak could occur from a number of causes, including a large failure or a smaller failure that would leak over a number of days or weeks below the system detection threshold, potentially releasing thousands of gallons per day, unknown to operators.”

The experts also found, similar to the findings underlying a recent formal notice sent by the National Wildlife Federation to the federal Department of Transportation, that Enbridge has never been required to do, and has never done, a competent emergency response plan based on a full and worst-case scenario of a rupture or release of crude oil in the Straits. In addition, Enbridge lacks sufficient capacity at the local level to respond, particularly in the winter when a response or clean up could not be done.  The expert team also found that there is a lack of sufficient structural supports and wooden slat covers to protect Line 5 under the Straits, exposing the pipeline to currents, abrasion, and other failures.

As Long as Oil Flows through the Straits Pipelines, the Great Lakes Remain at Unacceptable Risk

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.

FLOW Responds to Task Force Report

LANSING – This morning Attorney General Bill Schuette and DEQ Director Dan Wyant released the long-awaited Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report, outlining specific recommendations to address the significant risks surrounding a Canadian pipeline company’s controversial twin pipelines (known as “Line 5” or the Straits Pipelines).  The Task Force report establishes a framework to determine whether the transport of oil through the pipelines under the 5-mile long Straits segment is prudent or justified, especially when it appears other pipelines or routes could deliver the oil to markets without endangering the Great Lakes and the public and private uses that depend on them.

Four of the 13 recommendations are directed at the 62-year-old Straits Pipelines:

  • prevent the transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits Pipelines;
  • require an independent risk analysis and adequate financial assurance for the Straits Pipelines;
  • require an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing Straits Pipelines; and
  • obtain additional information from Enbridge on personnel, products transported, inspections, and repairs.

FLOW – a Great Lakes policy and research center located in Traverse City – credits the Task Force for seriously considering and incorporating many public interest recommendations like the need for an independent alternatives analysis.  However, the report lacks a timeline for implementation of the recommendations, enforcement measures under public trust law, and a clear process on conducting the independent alternatives analysis.  Further, there are no interim measures to keep the Great Lakes safe while the state continues to gather information.  FLOW urges Attorney General Schuette and Director Wyant to implement these additional recommendations and establish a transparent public process for evaluation under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act.

“The report is promising and surprisingly frank, recognizing the state’s legal authority and duty under the 1953 Easement and public trust law.  However, it doesn’t recognize the urgency of the situation in the Straits,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, “Allowing the oil to continue flowing while awaiting further information is simply unacceptable given the ongoing risk and magnitude of harm to the Great Lakes.” FLOW expert Ed Timm observed, “Line 5 becomes more hazardous with each passing day.”

The 62-year old pipeline is owned and operated by Enbridge under a 1953 Easement that reserved ownership and the public’s rights in the Great Lakes to the State of Michigan.  Enbridge ships liquid natural gas and oil through Line 5, and its use is limited by what a reasonably prudent person would do to protect public safety, public property, and private property from harm.

According to FLOW expert Rick Kane, “there is an “end-of-life” for the Line 5 Straits Crossing that can be established by proper planning and implementation.  An alternatives assessment with an aggressive time schedule is needed to protect the Great Lakes from an unplanned incident such as those that have occurred with other aging pipelines.”  The Enbridge Line 5 pipelines push nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids a day through the Straits of Mackinac, which the company uses as a shortcut for its Line 5 route from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario.  A July 2014 study by the University of Michigan called the Straits “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes” and depicted the prospect of a plume from a million-gallon oil spill in the Straits stretching for 85 miles – from Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island to Mackinac Island to Rogers City down the Lake Huron shore.

FLOW and partner organizations, including National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Environmental Council, and Oil & Water Don’t Mix Coalition have submitted reports and made presentations to the Task Force during the last year.  FLOW’s expert report released in April 2015 identified grave structural concerns related to corrosion, welding and coating failures, and invasive quagga mussel impacts weakening the steel pipelines.  “Emergency measures are needed, and they are needed now.” said FLOW expert Gary Street.

“Attorney General Schuette, Director Wyant, and the Task Force should be commended for their hard work on the report and the direction of these recommendations,” said Jim Olson, Founder and President of FLOW.  “Our state officials are legally recognized trustees who have a solemn duty to protect the Great Lakes from harm.  If our leaders quickly and prudently implement these recommendations, it should put an end to the transport of oil in the Straits because the risk is unacceptable to the citizens and well-being of Michigan.  At the moment, there are absolutely no executive orders, letters to Enbridge, or even suggestions for procedures, notices, and decisions to implement the Task Force recommendations.  The Attorney General, Director DEQ, and state officials must establish immediately a procedure, with public participation, transparency, and accountability under rule of law and the public trust in the Great Lakes.  Failure to do so, would be a clear violation of their public trust responsibilities.  We urge them to implement a timely, fair, and meaningful process to bring these recommendations on Line 5 and Enbridge.”

Over the last year, FLOW has elevated the State of Michigan’s leading role in addressing these petroleum pipelines that were built on state-owned bottomlands under a 1953 easement held in public trust (see FLOW’s July 1, 2014 letter to the State). The State has changed its position and accepted that they as trustees of the Great Lakes have jurisdiction over these pipelines in addition to the federal pipeline agency, PHMSA (Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration). Without the State of Michigan’s express authorization under the 1953 Easement and public trust law, Enbridge’s predecessor, Lake Head Pipe Line Company, could never have built these pipelines on the bottomland of the Straits of Mackinac.  As trustee, the State of Michigan must ensure the interests of the public by protecting the waters for citizens’ use and enjoyment in perpetuity.

“Extraordinary measures for management, communication, continuous monitoring, inspections, and emergency response are typical actions regulators take and industry expects when faced with major environmental and economic risks like Line 5,” said Kane.

 

For more information, visit our Line 5 page.

KOEHN: Michigan citizens deserve full transparency from Enbridge

A great article calling for full transparency from Enbridge and the State in relation to the Line 5 oil pipelines, written by Sarah Koehn (a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and the policy intern at West Michigan Environmental Action Council), was recently published in the Grand Haven Tribune. She concludes:

“The people of Michigan deserve full transparency and a proactive, thorough process to assess the risk of moving oil through the Great Lakes in an aged pipeline. Taking Enbridge’s word on its safety is not good enough. The state of Michigan should act decisively to protect our most valuable natural resource.”

Read the full article here.

George Weeks: League of Conservation Voters acts on two fronts

Click here to read the article on record-eagle.com

By George Weeks

July 13, 2014

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which in recent years has shown growing clout in politics, last week exercised it on two fronts, especially in northern Michigan, where it made two of its only three endorsements in legislative primaries.

The LCV’s annual environmental scorecard gave state legislators a 2013-14 grade of “incomplete,” declaring that so far they have “stalled, roadblocked and rolled back” progress on air, land and water issues.

But LCV said, “A few leaders stand out as advocates” on those issues, including Reps. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, whose 107th district includes Chippewa, Mackinac and Emmet counties, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, in the one-county (Grand Traverse) 104th district.

Foster was praised for sponsoring legislation “that would safeguard our lakes, rivers, and streams from over-extraction and contamination.” Schmidt was praised for introducing legislation that would remove the arbitrary cap on the amount of public land the state can own.

Four downstate lawmakers also were headlined as “Advocates.”

Two lawmakers were classified as “Adversaries,” including Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, criticized for introducing legislation that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from managing public land to promote biodiversity. The other is a downstate lawmaker.

In politics, it’s one thing for interest groups to issue scorecards and press releases. Good PR, especially with like-minded voters. But one reason that the Michigan LCV is a significant player in state politics is that it makes endorsements backed up by contributions -$270,000 in the last election cycle.

On Friday, the league announced its endorsement of Foster over Republican primary challenger Lee Chatfield of Levering, and of term-limited representative Schmidt in the GOP primary for the 37th Senate district that spans both peninsulas. He’s in a lively primary with 105th district Rep. Greg MacMcMaster, who is giving up his solid Republican district to seek the Senate seat that will be vacated by Howard Walker.

“We are in serious need of strong conservation leaders in the state Legislature who will turn protections for Michigan’s land, air and water into political priorities,” said Michigan LCV Deputy Director Jack Schmitt. He called Foster and Schmidt “proven leaders on our priority issues.”In a teleconference where Schmitt announced the endorsement, a downstate reporter noted that Schmidt and MacMaster had almost identical overall records on the House floor on issues consistent with LCV positions.

Beyond the fact of Schmidt’s legislation that’s hailed by the league and opposed by MacMaster, Schmitt said MacMaster advocates “we gut Michigan’s Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund.”

MacMaster Friday defended his positions and said there needs to be more analysis of the implications of “more land purchases by the state.”

Pipeline Warnings

LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak joined leaders of 18 Michigan environmental organizations in sending an 18-page letter to Gov. Rick Snyder urging him to “swiftly address” issues regarding 61-year old underwater Enbridge oil pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac.

A University of Michigan research scientist has said rupture of the lines would be “the worst possible place for a spill on the Great Lakes.

Traverse City attorney Jim Olson, president and founder of For Love of Water (FLOW), said the groups want Snyder “to take lead as chief trustee of our Great Lakes and require Enbridge to submit an application for complete review” of its lines.

The letter said: “These twin 61-year-old pipelines located in the heart of the Great Lakes are one of the greatest threats to our water, our economy, and our Pure Michigan way of life.”

The letter, whose signatories include the high-profile Michigan Environmental Council, said, “The Straits of Mackinac are held by the State in trust for its citizens. The powerful underwater currents and extreme weather conditions at the Straits make them ecologically sensitive and would make cleanup or recovery from a pipeline spill especially difficult.”

The National Wildlife Federation estimates such a spill could release up to 1.5 million gallons of oil in just eight minutes. The 2010 Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek near Marshall released about 800,000 gallons of crude from an underground pipeline — and only now is the cleanup nearing completion.

Snyder would be wise to mobilize his administration in positive response to the letter.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalim Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

 

 

Environmental groups demand Governor and State take immediate action to protect the Great Lakes from hazardous Enbridge Mackinac Straits oil pipeline

July 2, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director

231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

 Michigan Governor Snyder urged to exercise full authority over Enbridge Pipeline No. 5 under public lands easement agreement and Great Lakes Submerged Land Act 

Traverse City – 17 Conservation, water and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians today sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder urging greater state action to regulate Enbridge Pipeline No. 5. The 61 year-old pipeline transports nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products under the Straits of Mackinac each day.

The letter points out potential violations in operations and public disclosure requirements established by Public Act 10 of 1953 and the Great Lakes Submerged Land Act. Public Act 10 granted the Michigan Department of Conservation public trust authority to allow this particular easement on public trust bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes provided they are “held in trust.”

The letter cites the lack of disclosure and transparency by Enbridge and the failure of the State of Michigan to enforce accountability and compliance consistent with the requirements of the public trust in the waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes.

“The lack of information leaves too many questions; it makes it impossible to truly assess the risk of a devastating crude oil spill under the Straits of Mackinac, “said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW and a principal author of the report. “For instance, the 1953 easement agreement sets the maximum operating pressure of pipeline No. 5 at 600 psig. Data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), show that Enbridge’s maximum operating pressure significantly exceeds 600 psig, and instead typically runs at nearly twice the allowed pressure at about 1000-1250 psig. We have to get to the bottom of this and other crucial safety questions. ”

 Enbridge had a catastrophic spill on its pipeline near the Kalamazoo River in 2010, causing severe environmental impacts and massive cleanup costs.

“We urge you, the Attorney General, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to fully assert your authority under the easement, Public Act 10 of 1953, the GLSLA, and public trust law to ensure that any use by Enbridge of Line 5 under the Straits does not, and will not likely, subordinate, interfere with, or impair these public trust waters and bottomlands or the public use and enjoyment of these waters  so essential to the quality of life and economy of Michigan,”  the letter states.

The groups praised the Michigan Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality for their joint April 29, 2014 letter to Enbridge. Recognizing that the Straits pipeline present a “unique risk” and an overwhelming magnitude of harm to the Straits, Lake Michigan-Huron, the ecosystem, and the public and private use and enjoyment that depend on them, the Attorney General and DEQ demanded that Enbridge provide critical detailed information about:  pipeline construction, modification, useful life and replacement, (2) existing and potential future uses of the pipelines, (3) pipeline inspection, (4) pipeline leak prevention, detection, and control, (5) contingency planning and spill response, (6) compliance with easement terms, and (7) access to Enbridge records under the easement.

“We appreciate the recognition by the Attorney General and the DEQ of the State’s public trust or stewardship responsibilities to protect these waters, bottomlands, and public uses from potential harm and risk associated with Line 5,” said Jim Olson, founder of FLOW, a Great Lakes water policy center. “But even if Enbridge complies with the requests of the Attorney General and DEQ in this letter, it will not have fully complied with the terms of the easement, Public Act 10, the GLSLA, or public trust law that protects the integrity of the Straits and Great Lakes.”

In the April 29 letter, the Attorney General and the DEQ state, “Strong currents in the Straits could rapidly spread any oil leaked from the pipelines into both Lakes Huron and Michigan, causing grave environmental and economic harm. Efforts to contain and clean up leaks in this area would be extraordinarily difficult, especially if they occurred in winter or other severe weather conditions that commonly occur at the Straits.” These currents could rapidly move this oil spill plume throughout Lake Michigan-Huron.

“The Great Lakes supply drinking water to 42 million people,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We can’t afford another potential Enbridge oil pipeline spill like what happened in the Kalamazoo River.   Let’s work to try to prevent another costly disaster. All of the Great Lakes states have a vital stake in avoiding oil spill hazards in the Straits of Mackinac.”

The letter urges the Governor, Attorney General and DEQ to fully exercise authority under the easement, Public Act 10 of 1953, the GLSLA, and public trust law to ensure that any use by Enbridge of Line 5 under the Straits: “does not, and will not likely, subordinate, interfere with, or impair these public trust waters and bottomlands or the public use and enjoyment of these waters – so essential to the quality of life and economy of Michigan.”

The letter enumerates four necessary next steps:

  1. Submit the information the AG and DEQ requested in their April 29 letter and make such information available to the public;
  2. Disclose in detail all oil and other liquids or substances that have been, are, or will be transported through Line 5 pipelines under the Straits;
  3. File a conveyance application for authorization from the DEQ under the GLSLA and public trust law, coupled with a comprehensive analysis of likely impacts on water, ecosystem, and public uses in the event of a release, and demonstrate that Line 5 will conform with the State’s perpetual public trust duties and standards for occupying and using the waters and bottomlands of the Straits and Lake Michigan-Huron; and
  4. Achieve full compliance with all express terms and conditions of the easement.

Enbridge recently increased Line 5 pipeline product flow under the Straits by 10 percent from 490,000 to 540,000 barrels per day, or 2.1 million gallons per day. Enbridge increased Line 5’s pipeline pressure by 20 percent, depending on the viscosity of the product being pumped and transported.  Enbridge has increased the transport of oil in this aging 61-year-old pipeline containing heavy oil characteristics or compounds from tar sands.

“The effects of a catastrophic spill under the Straits would devastate the tourism industry so vital to the economy of northern Michigan,“ said James Clift, Policy Director of Lansing-based Michigan Environmental. The effects of a catastrophic spill under the Straits would devastate the Straits and Mackinac Island as an international attraction, the tourism industry so vital to the economy of Michigan.”

The State of Michigan has not yet conducted a proper public trust analysis under common law, the GLSLA, Constitution or Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”). Mandatory evaluation is required under the law to determine whether or not the occupancy and use by Enbridge of Line 5 is “likely to pollute, impair or destroy the air, water or other natural resources or the public trust in these resources,” according  to Kirkwood.  In other words,  Enbridge must affirmatively prove that this five-mile submerged pipeline,  with its recent oil and product changes and increased volume and pressure will not likely harm public trust waters, the ecosystem, and uses for fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking supplies that depend on these waters.

“Michigan residents need to get active and make it known they demand accountability,” said Jim Lively, Michigan Land Use Institute.

Environmental and conservation advocates have long been frustrated by the lack of information available about Line 5. The letter points out that the public trust requires complete transparency, disclosure, and accountability on the part of Enbridge. The State of Michigan has unfettered authority to demand such transparency, disclosure, and accountability.

The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

A copy of the full letter is available here.

# # #

FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes.


FLOW attends Northern Michigan Pipeline Symposium

On Tuesday night June 24, 2014, approximately 150 concerned citizens gathered together at Petoskey High School to learn and ask questions about Enbridge Energy and their future plans for pipeline 5.  A wide range of advocacy and regulatory groups were also in attendance and participated in the discussion panel that followed after presentations form PHMSA, Enbridge, and the EPA.

The symposium was structured with a very controlled design. Enbridge along with a number of overlapping agencies and advocacy groups welcomed discussion at tables outside the auditorium before the event started. It was hard to see Enbridge’s table as they were crowded with protesters and students from MI-CATS (Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands) calling out claims against the energy company. Amongst the 2 bodyguards present with Enbridge, a nervous demeanor was apparent in the shaky voice of their representatives.

Allan Beshore was the first speaker to present. He represented the US Dept of Transportation’s PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) group and provided an explanation of PHMSA’s involvement with the oil and gas industry. The jolly Kansan kept his talk simple and bland with factual information. Allan’s message was that PHMSA is not just a regulating entity but also a group that has a mindset towards providing stewardship to affected communities. Interestingly enough, Allan did note during his presentation that corrosion and equipment failure historically have been the largest occurrence to pipeline breaks.

When Brad Shamla, Enbridge Energy’s Vice President of North American operations took the stage he was met with dissatisfying boo’s from the crowd. Brad focused on the history of Enbridge and made it clear that they have learned a lot from the Kalamazoo spill in 2010. He made sure to underline the fact that Enbridge has invested millions in new green energy technology, safety measures, and attempts to improve the image and culture of their company since the spill in 2010. It was evident that Enbridge wanted to portray their effort to increase public awareness and community outreach also. Thematically the presenters held to a “trust us mentality” assuring citizens they have improved systems since the Kalamazoo oil spill. Yet, nothing seemed too compelling or new in Brad’s talk. While Enbridge has largely grown its employment over the last 4 years, only 250 jobs will be created in Michigan from their proposed pipeline 5 work.

Ralph Dollhopf an on-scene coordinator from the EPA was the last to speak. Ralph discussed the oil and hazardous substance national contingency plan. Reviewing the steps of the process towards executing the plan in the event of a spill.  Concerns about tar sands sinking or floating in water were addressed time and again as Ralph based his explanation off the fact that “weathering factors” play a large role in determining sink/float characteristics of oil. This makes it hard to determine any universal cause plan for a spill without knowing the characteristics of the body of water it occurs in.

Initiating the Q & A session 15 people took the stage representing:

Enbridge

American Petroleum Institute

PHMSA- Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

US Environmental Protection Agency

Coast Guard

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Michigan Public Service Commission

Tri-County Emergency Management

Regional Health Department

Marine Pollution Control

Pipeline Safety Trust

Michigan Environmental Council

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

Panel questions were predetermined and due to time constraints limited to addressing only a portion of all the questions. Enbridge’s V.P. provided open-ended answers and vague clarifications to most questions as the large majority were directed at him. The rest of the representatives held true to a message of how prepared they are in the event of an oil spill. Bill Hazel, Director of Marine Services from Marine Pollution Control made a point that focus needs to not only be on post-spill contingency plans but also pre-spill. It was clear that there was a lack of preventative tools used to contain spills in the event of a pipeline break in the straights. Today in Mackinaw City there is less than 1 mile of boom ready for deployment in the event of a spill.

FLOW’s submitted question for the panel went relatively unaddressed. “Has Enbridge obtained authorization from DEQ under Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act for placement and use of the pipeline”?  In response the DEQ avoided directly answering the question stating that the DNR holds the easement and little was known about it, while Enbridge held to the claim that pipeline 5 was grandfathered in under PA 10 back in the 1950s. To be blunt both spokesman seemed unprepared to answer any public trust questions.

In writing the narrative for the symposium a true lack of public transparency took shape in the thesis. If there is a necessity to move oil, pipelines seem to be the most efficient means and an agreement must be found to regulate them. Given Michigan’s immense wealth in the natural resource of water, public trust responsibility is very important. Enbridge Energy came to the event hoping to reassure the public that they are prepared for a potential pipe burst but did not answer anyone’s direct concerns. Enbridge is only looking to seek resolution based on their past history which acknowledges the public’s biggest fear of the energy company, another spill. Citizens left the symposium with more doubt unsure of what the future will hold; it’s the public’s Great Lakes and everyone has the right to know what is occurring in their waters.

A special thanks to Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council for organizing and running this event.

News coverage can be found here: Local NBC affiliate’s story   IPR Public Radio’s story