Tag: For Love of Water

Analysis of Alternatives to 64-Year-Old “Line 5” Pipelines Riddled with Bad Assumptions, Miscalculations





 

TRAVERSE CITY – A draft report for the State by Dynamic Risk Inc. of alternatives to Enbridge’s risky twin oil pipelines crossing the lakebed at the Straits of Mackinac is so deeply flawed, according to FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes water law and policy center, that the State cannot credibly rely on its findings to decide Line 5’s future.

“The report is unreliable and should not be used,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW. “Instead, the State should protect the Great Lakes from the potential of a catastrophic oil spill and exercise its legal authority to revoke Enbridge’s permission to use the waters and lakebed that belong to the people of Michigan.”

Prepared by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems of Calgary – a firm with business ties to Enbridge – the study is rife with biased assumptions and technical errors that skew its findings, said FLOW representatives at a public meeting on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College.

“The process of developing these now-discredited reports has cost Michigan well over a year that should have been spent crafting a thoughtful decommissioning process that protects the Great Lakes, prioritizes citizens, businesses, and tribes, and ultimately addresses Michigan’s energy needs,” said Kirkwood, “Enbridge has been granted an extension through distraction.”

Among the draft report’s flaws:

• It completely ignores the most suitable alternative to Line 5, which is existing infrastructure. The state asked consultant Dynamic Risk to analyze it. Failure to do so taints the analysis.

• The draft report assumes that the state must guarantee that Enbridge deliver 23 million gallons of oil that is now being transported daily through Line 5, rather than protecting the energy needs of its citizens. This bias results in the tunnel option appearing as a favored report alternative.

• The draft report assumes the best-case scenario for a spill, not the worst. The consultant uses assumptions of risk that are woefully inadequate and are not credible. It estimates that an average 20 miles of shoreline would be impacted by a spill. This is just 3% of the 720-mile area the University of Michigan found vulnerable to a spill in its 2016 study.

• It significantly understates the likelihood of pipeline failure at an already-alarming 1 in 60 chance by ignoring 50 years of neglect, unsupported spans, powerful currents, and gravity. Applying DOT engineering standards and adding up the failure probability on a yearly basis gives the 2017 failure probability at 46.4% and the 2053 failure probability at 72.5%, or odds of about 3-1. These figures are far different from the Alternatives Analysis estimate of 1.6% by 2053.

• It relies on flawed economic impact modeling that unreasonably concludes that a spill in the open waters of the Great Lakes would only cost $100-200 million in damages.

• It estimates an impact to propane supply much greater than what FLOW’s independent experts have determined would be necessary to provide the Upper Peninsula’s Rapid River facility with an alternative supply. The flawed alternatives report finds that up to 35 railcars per week or 15 truckloads per day would be necessary to replace the Line 5 supply of natural gas liquids, while FLOW’s expert studies have found it would take only one railcar or 3-4 truckloads per day. Line 5 supplies only 35-50 percent of the Upper Peninsula’s propane.

“The fact is, Line 5 is not essential,” said Rick Kane, a Michigan-based hazardous materials risk management specialist advising FLOW. “The regional pipeline system can supply crude oil to Michigan and surrounding refineries while eliminating the risk that Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes,” Kane said. “Feasible and prudent alternatives exist to support domestic needs, as well as exports. However, pipeline company owners will not move to implement any alternatives as long as Line 5 operates and the public continues to carry the risk.”
Last month, the state cancelled a contract for an analysis of the financial risks associated with the Mackinac pipeline when it was disclosed an employee of contractor Det Norske Veritas worked on another project for Enbridge, creating a conflict of interest.

“The risk is far too high for State leaders to use this flawed report as an excuse for more delay, especially when there are obvious alternatives for Enbridge, Michigan, and Canada without Line 5 in the Straits,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president and a renowned water rights attorney. “Good leadership calls for interim measures now, based on the clear authority and duties imposed on the State to protect the Straits and Great Lakes. This means prohibiting the transport of crude through Line 5, pending further proceedings and final decisions.”

After the revelation last month that Enbridge for years routinely violated a legal agreement to properly anchor its dual pipelines against the swift currents in the Mackinac Straits, FLOW argued the state of Michigan now must apply the law, stop Line 5’s oil flow, and hold public hearings as it considers the Canadian company’s application to squeeze more life out of its decaying steel infrastructure built in 1953.

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Line 5 Straits New Anchor Structures

 Public Statement

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Line 5 Straits New Anchor Structures

Jim Olson

President and Legal Advisor, FLOW (For Love of Water)

July 25, 2017


Director Grether, Division and Unit Chief Fisher, and the Gaylord Office Unit Supervisor Haas, and Great Lakes Submerged Land Specialist Graft:

This statement addresses a primary legal requirement for Enbridge concerning its proposal to locate, occupy, and engage in construction activity for twenty-two (22) new anchor supports on the public trust bottomlands and waters of Lake Michigan. The application as filed requests an activities permit pursuant to the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and Rules (“GLSA”) for placement of these twenty-two anchors as “other materials.”  As will be seen, these anchors and the pipeline are new and involve far more than placing spoils or other materials as an activities permit. In fact, these anchor supports and line, in combination with the dual lines in the Straits, have never been authorized under the GLSA and public trust law.

FLOW submitted public comments into the record on this application on June 29, 2017, and will submit supplemental public comments and technical reports on or before August 4, 2017, the end of the extended public comment period.  For purposes of the public hearing I offer the following specific comment on the legal framework for the proceedings under the GLSA for these twenty-two support anchors and the dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

First, the history of these new anchor supports, including the proposed twenty-two supports for the dual pipelines is directly related to the failure in design and construction of the original pipelines as authorized by the terms of the 1953 Easement and the substantial increase in crude oil flow rate from 300,000 bpd approved by the Public Service Commission in 1953 and the very new increase to 540,000 bpd as part of Enbridge’s project to expand its Lakeside System. A more detailed description of these anchors and why they are new and need approval to operate these dual lines are contained in FLOW’s June 29 public comment as supplemented by the comments to be filed on or before August 4, including the additional supplemental that will be submitted by technical experts Ed Timm and Gary Street.

Second, these anchor supports are new because they fall outside and were not authorized as part of the pipelines by the 1953 Easement. These anchors are new because they are proposed to prevent further bending in the compromised and deformed lines because of powerful currents and other forces in the Straits. As noted, they are also new because these supports together with other new facilities and equipment along Line 5 are part of the Enbridge expansion of its entire Lakehead System, including the doubling of Line 6b (now Line 78) to Stockbridge in southern Michigan.

In lay person terms, what does this mean?  It means that the dual pipelines with these new anchor supports and increased flow volume have not been authorized by agreements to permit the occupancy of these anchor supports on the bottomlands and n the waters of the Great Lakes as required by the GLSLA and its Rules. It means that the pending application for the proposed new twenty-two new supports does not comply with the requirements under the GLSLA and its Rules for a proper agreement or authorization for occupying bottomlands and waters in the Straits.

New structures to prop up a previously authorized line based on the existing define and new and increased volumes as part of a major single expansion project require new authorization. It is as simple as that.  Before the Department can act on Enbridge’s application for the construction activity permit for the anchor supports, Enbridge must first apply for and the State must authorize an occupancy conveyance or agreement in accordance with Sections 32502, 32503, and 32505 and other parts of the GLSLA and its Rules.

What to do, then?  The most straightforward way to proceed is for the MDEQ to notify Enbridge that it must comply with the requirements for authorization to occupy as I have described above, and to cease or halt the use of the lines in the Straits unless and until these lines with these new anchor supports have been applied for and determined to satisfy the standards and requirements of the GLSLA and its Rules. Recent evidence from Enbridge records and grueling evaluation by Dr. Ed Timm demonstrate that the integrity of the pipelines, as noted above has been precariously compromised, and as a result, according to Dr. Timm, there is in 2017 a probability of a failure in one of the lines as high as forty-six percent (46%).

The only prudent and correct thing for the State to do to prevent impairment or injury to the public trust and public and private riparian rights, public health, and safety, is to halt the flow of oil and put the onus on Enbridge to apply for proper conveyance authorization for these new structures in conjunction with these pipelines—they are inextricably related. Enbridge can decide to apply for these new supports in conjunction with the condition of the pipelines and the eighty percent (80%) increase in flow of crude oil.  The State DEQ can now once and for all finally consider and determine as trustee of the public trust protected by the GLSLA, whether Enbridge has shown there is no likely high risk of serious impairment to the public trust interests of Michigan and its citizens.

To date, not one agency has considered the environmental impact or existence of other alternatives related to the increase in flow of crude oil, the new supports and the condition of these lines.  The State can now evaluate in an orderly legal process whether the dual lines in the Straits can be or should be authorized. If Enbridge does not apply in order to comply and demonstrate a right to authorization and approval, then that is its own choice, and the State has the power, duty, and right to halt the transport of crude oil or demand decommissioning of the dual lines because they do not comply with state law and regulations enacted under its title and police power to protect its public trust lands and waters.

Thank you.


 

A Disappointing Distraction: FLOW’s Statement on the Line 5 Alternatives Study

On June 29, the State of Michigan released for public comment a consultant’s study on alternatives to Line 5, the risky 64-year-old dual oil pipelines that cross the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac.  The state is now holding public meetings on the study.

The study is a major disappointment and contributes little of value to the discussion on the fate of the oil pipelines operating in the Great Lakes since 1953. 

FLOW’s position is unchanged:  the State of Michigan must terminate the easement allowing Enbridge to use Lake Michigan’s lakebed for the pipelines.  The state has the authority and the responsibility to do so to prevent a catastrophic oil spill.  In light of Enbridge’s consistent record of disregard for maintenance of Line 5, the state must do so.

* FLOW rejects the alternatives study as fatally tainted by the authors’ blatant conflict of interest. The consulting firm’s vice president has an extensive history of working alongside of, and in support of, Enbridge.  The state’s process is now revealed for what it always has been – a distraction from its responsibility to protect the Great Lakes by shutting down Line 5 now.

* Substantively, the alternatives study can’t be taken seriously because it:

  1. Completely ignores the most suitable alternative to Line 5, which is existing infrastructure. The state asked consultant Dynamic Risk to analyze it. Failure to do so skews the analysis. Since the state and consultant won’t do their jobs and analyze the existing infrastructure, FLOW will continue to analyze it by updating our 2015 independent expert report on that alternative in the near future.
  2. Assumes the best-case scenario for a spill. The consultant uses assumptions of risk that are woefully inadequate and are not credible. It estimates that:
  • Only 20 miles of shoreline would be impacted by a spill. This is just 3% of the 720-mile area the University of Michigan found vulnerable to a spill in its 2016 study.
  • An oil spill would cost $100 million to $200 million, when Enbridge’s cleanup costs for its Line 6B pipeline oil spill into the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010 cost more than $1.2 billion.
  1. Inflates the impact of shutting down Line 5 to the U.P.’s propane supply. The report estimates an impact to propane supply much greater than what FLOW’s independent experts have determined would be necessary to provide the Upper Peninsula’s Rapid River facility with an alternative supply. The flawed report finds that up to 35 railcars per week or 15 truckloads per day would be necessary to replace the Line 5 supply of natural gas liquids, while FLOW’s expert studies have found it would take only one railcar or 3 – 4 truckloads per day.

FLOW is a leader in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign uniting citizens, businesses, groups, governments, tribes, and faith communities in support of shutting down Line 5 to avoid a catastrophic Great Lakes oil spill.

Please submit your comments on the State of Michigan’s Line 5 alternatives study by August 4 by visiting the Oil & Water Don’t Mix website here: www.OilandWaterDontMix.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osceola County Site Visit –  Stealing Michigan’s Invisible Resource

 

This article is a follow-up to my January post on “Groundwater – Invisible but Precious.”

On a recent bike tour in northern Michigan, I decided to put Evart on the itinerary and stop by the area where Nestle Waters North America is hoping to increase their taking of Michigan groundwater. Nestle would like to increase the flow in their existing production well (PW-1) from 250 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm, and send the water to their water bottling plant in Mecosta County. This flow would total over 500,000 gallons per day, or 210 million gallons per year. Nestle’s cost to take this water - a $200 permit fee. This production well is located in a hydrologically sensitive area of springs and between the upper reaches of Twin Creek and Chippewa Creek.

Before my visit, I had already reviewed information provided by Nestle: topographic maps, soil borings, historical stream flow and groundwater level data, an aquifer test performed on the production well, and the predictions from a groundwater computer model their consultants produced. Hydrologists rely on this type of data and models to analyze watersheds and look at “what if” scenarios. A site visit fills in some of the gaps and details that you can’t see on a sheet of paper or on your computer screen.

This area just north of the small village of Evart is beautiful - rolling and wooded. The land is private, and mostly occupied by hunt clubs and the Spring Hill Camp. The travel was slow for me on my bike because the roads were soft gravel and hilly. A loaded touring bike (and owner) prefer flat and paved. I was able to only see the creeks where they crossed the roads, but I was able to get some sense of the hydrology and topography.

Bike touring provides lots of time to think, and my concerns with this taking of Michigan groundwater rolled around in my brain. Two primary concerns are as follows:

  1. Nestle has been pumping groundwater from this production well for over a decade and gathering data. It is unusual but very beneficial to have all of this historical data. Unfortunately, Nestle did not use the data to analyze the effects of the historic pumping on the small streams and springs near their production well PW-1, nor did they share all of the data with the public. They only used the data to develop a computer model that was then utilized to predict the impacts of an increased flow from PW-1. Computer models are far from perfect. FLOW hired its own hydrologist to review Nestle’s reports, and has pointed to several concerns and unsupported assumptions in Nestle’s work.
  2. The production well is located where it is so that Nestle can label the water “Spring Water.” Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements in fact state that “Spring water shall be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring.” (See excerpts from FDA regulations in Attachment 1). The difference between taking a few gpm of groundwater flowing out of a spring, and pumping hundreds of gpm from a bore hole is significant and will likely always impact the small springs and streams nearby. If a large production well is installed, one is simply drawing in groundwater from the area and the production well can be located out of the sensitive headwater areas of the watershed. For example, the City of Evart community wells are located only a few miles away from PW-1, along the Muskegon River, and are pumping virtually the same water from the same unconfined aquifer. But the potential impacts are much different – the average flow in the Muskegon river is 450,000 gpm, whereas the average flow from a gauge on Twin Creek close to PW-1 is 780 gpm. When a pumped well removes 400 gpm from an unconfined aquifer, the result is a taking of 400 gpm from the springs and streams nearby. The impact is obvious.

So whether you enjoy bottled water or not (I don’t buy it), it is clear to me that Nestle is taking too much of Michigan’s groundwater, in a precarious and sensitive location, for too small a fee. On this bike trip, I travelled along the Muskegon River from Paris to Hersey to Evart to where it crosses Highway M-61 west of Harrison. It is a big, beautiful river, from a big, beautiful watershed that drains a large chunk of Michigan. Groundwater taken close to the Muskegon River minimizes the impact to the watershed, and gets rid of the uncertainty of the computer models. This water could not be labeled Spring Water, but that may be a compromise that the citizens of Michigan would be willing to accept.

 


Bob Otwell has been a member of the FLOW board since 2013. He is the founder of Otwell Mawby PC, a Traverse City environmental consulting firm. He has degrees in Civil Engineering and has experience in groundwater and surface water hydrology, along with environmental studies and clean-up. Bob did a career switch and was the executive director of TART Trails from 2001 to 2010.

FDA Regulation Excerpts

Enbridge’s Neglect of 64-Year-Old “Line 5” Pipelines Risks Mackinac Straits, Requires State to Stop Oil and Hold Hearings


 


 


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO MEDIA: June 29, 2017

Contacts:

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director                                                  Cell: 570-872-4956
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                          Email: liz@flowforwater.org

Jim Olson, Founder & President                                                   Cell: 231-499-8831
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                          Email: olson@envlaw.com 

 

TRAVERSE CITY –

After the revelation earlier this month that Enbridge for years routinely violated a legal agreement to properly anchor its dual pipelines against the swift currents in the Mackinac Straits, the state of Michigan now must apply the law, stop Line 5’s oil flow, and hold public hearings as it considers the Canadian company’s application to squeeze more life out of its decaying steel infrastructure built in 1953, according to FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes water law and policy center, in formal comments released today.

While the state’s 1953 easement agreement granting Enbridge conditional occupancy of state bottomlands in the Mackinac Straits allows Enbridge up to 90 days to cure any violations, a 2016 report commissioned by Enbridge shows that the company for years knowingly ignored the erosion problem, which  appears to be unfixable and worsening with time.

“Enbridge’s willful neglect to properly support Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits is a game changer,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director and environmental attorney. “This neglect is a flagrant violation of the company’s privilege to use the bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes.”

“Leaving the pipeline exposed without support in the currents and forces of the Straits causes metal fatigue and heightens the risk of a spill. There needs to be an investigation of whether a pipeline should be there at all, before considering structural changes to a pipeline that has been compromised by the company’s own actions,” Kirkwood said.

Enbridge’s June 9 “maintenance” application to install up to 22 more pipeline anchors into Lake Michigan’s public bottomlands fails to address a company pattern of violating the easement and avoiding an assessment of Line 5’s impacts and alternatives, while perpetuating the imminent threat to the Great Lakes and the protected public uses that include fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking, according to a legal analysis by FLOW.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is receiving public comment through today on Enbridge’s application, which also is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This application is not about anchor supports. It’s about whether Enbridge can expand Line 5 and the new Line 78 from Indiana across lower Michigan to Sarnia,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president and a renowned water rights attorney.  “Our cities, villages, and citizens have ended up with Enbridge’s version of the Keystone XL right here in the Great Lakes, and it happened without the public notice, hearings, and independent impact and alternative analyses required by law.”

The application, like many others filed by Enbridge in the last few years, disguises the company’s piecemeal actions that continue to significantly expand oil transport through and around the Great Lakes. Line 5 transports nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids each day through the Mackinac Straits, 80 percent more volume than its past design capacity after several of its so-called “maintenance” upgrades.

The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board is conducting a parallel review of Line 5 in the Straits, with a draft report on alternatives released today and a risk report that has been stymied by a conflict of interest, but that process is neither under the rule of law nor complies with the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) or other state and federal law.

“The advisory board’s review is not legally binding and does not replace the DEQ’s independent obligation to determine whether Line 5 should continue.” Kirkwood said.

Of particular concern is Enbridge’s continued failure to predict and prevent the cumulative impacts on Line 5 of lakebed erosion caused by Straits currents that frequently reverse and can exceed 10 times the flow over Niagara Falls.

“Enbridge’s piecemeal approach to managing washouts and installing adequate support under the Straits crossing of Line 5 has resulted in the line frequently being out of compliance with easement support requirements since the 1970’s,” said Ed Timm, PhD, an engineer advising FLOW. “Washouts are inherently unpredictable and it is likely that damage to the pipe has already occurred because of unsupported spans that were not detected and repaired by Enbridge’s two-year inspection and repair schedule.”

Contrary to assertions by Enbridge, the state taking action to stop Line 5’s oil flow in the Mackinac Straits to prevent a catastrophic oil spill would not disrupt Michigan's or the Midwest's crude oil and propane supply, according to a set of expert reports FLOW released in December 2015. Available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American pipeline system run not only by Enbridge, but also by competitors supplying the same refineries in Detroit, Toledo, and Sarnia, Ontario.

“The fact is, Line 5 is not essential,” said Rick Kane, a Michigan-based hazardous materials risk management specialist advising FLOW. “The regional pipeline system can supply crude oil to Michigan and surrounding refineries while eliminating the risk that Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes,” Kane said. “Feasible and prudent alternatives exist to support domestic needs, as well as exports.  However, pipeline company owners will not move to implement any alternatives as long as Line 5 operates and the public continues to carry the risk.”

For more information, visit FLOW’s website at www.FLOWforWater.org/Line-5/ and these links:

  • FLOW’s Public Comments on the Joint Application of Enbridge Energy to Occupy Great Lakes Bottomlands for Anchoring Supports to Transport Crude Oil in Line 5 Pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan [2RD-DFDK-Y35G], submitted June 29, 2017.
  • FLOW’s Public Comments on the Joint Application of Enbridge Energy to Occupy Great Lakes Bottomlands for Anchoring Supports to Transport Crude Oil in Line 5 Pipelines in The Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan [No. 2hb-Vgko-35je], submitted August 25, 2016.
  • Technical Note Regarding Enbridge Line 5 Non-Compliance with 1953 Easement Requirements, A Mechanistic Analysis of Straits Pipeline Washout Phenomena, by Edward E. Timm, PhD, PE, August 20, 2016.
  • Appendices of August 2016: A & B

 

Enbridge’s June 9, 2017, application and public notice can be viewed at:

  • MDEQ website at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/. The public can view the application or submit comments by clicking on the Public Notice Search and entering “Enbridge” in the Applicant Name section or “2RD-DFDK-Y35G” in the Application Number section.

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PDF of Media Release:

Read FLOW's Comments here:

Abrupt cancellation of conflict-plagued Line 5 study sparks demand for transparency from DEQ

LANSING – Oil & Water Don’t Mix today said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to cancel a study that was rife with conflicts of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all – and called on state leaders to disclose all details of the draft study that was plagued by conflicts of interest.

“Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers,” said David Holtz, Chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign coordinator. “The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers.”

“This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water. “In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette start acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay.”

# # #

 

Don’t delay! Submit your public comment today!

 

Click here to read the post on the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines website! 

 

 

Action Alert: Enbridge Trying to Squeeze More Life Out of “Line 5” in the Mackinac Straits

Take Action Now!

Urgent Threat: Enbridge is courting an oil spill disaster again in Michigan, and this time the Great Lakes are at risk. The public has until June 29, 2017, to oppose the Canadian energy transport giant’s request for state permission to squeeze more life out of a cracked, dented, and deformed pair of pipelines that push 23 million gallons of oil a day across the bottom of the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The request to continue the piecemeal patch up of the 64-year-old “Line 5” pipelines threatens the drinking water source for more than 40 million people, the economic engine for the Great Lakes region, and a way of life for millions of North Americans.

Terrible Track Record: Recall that Enbridge in 2010 caused the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history when its southern Michigan pipeline ruptured and dumped more than one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed. That failure sickened 150 people, and permanently drove 150 families from their homes, taking four years and over $1.2 billion to clean up to the extent possible. Enbridge’s Line 5 has a similar dark history, with at least 29 spills totaling more than one million gallons of oil spread along its path in Michigan and Wisconsin since 1953.

Damage Done: Now Enbridge has applied to the State of Michigan for a permit to install more underwater anchor supports on its antiquated Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, which the University of Michigan calls the “worst possible place” for a Great Lakes oil spill. The 22 anchor supports are another belated attempt to keep Line 5 from shifting, bending, and grinding on the bottom in the powerful underwater currents at the Straits, but the damage is already done. These supports are merely the latest in a series of stopgap measures that ignore decades of metal fatigue and stress on the pipeline, which is now well past its 50-year life expectancy and should be permanently shut down as soon as possible.

Follow the Facts

Public records reveal that…

  • From the 1970s through the 1990s, Enbridge installed grout bags to prop up Line 5, attempting to meet the state’s requirement under the 1953 easement to support the steel pipeline at least every 75 feet along the publicly owned bottom of the Great Lakes.
  • In 2001, Enbridge declared an emergency on Line 5 in the Straits to stabilize stretches or spans of the pipeline that had become dangerously unsupported for over 130 feet because of “washouts” of the lake bottom and grout bags caused by swift currents that, records show, were underestimated when the pipeline was designed. 
  • Recently it was revealed that Enbridge was out of compliance likely for decades with the legally required safety margin, allowing 16 spans of Line 5 to go unsupported for lengths greater than 140 feet, with the longest being 224 feet on the east pipeline and 286 feet on the west pipeline – nearly four times the legal limit.
  • With no reliable model to predict lakebed washouts due to the highly dynamic nature of currents in the Mackinac Straits, Enbridge cannot meet its legal duty under the state easement to prudently operate this pipeline.
  • Enbridge incorrectly categorizes its proposed patchwork response to Line 5’s major structural defects as “routine maintenance” when the company has, in fact, been systematically expanding the capacity of Line 5 and Line 6b in southern Michigan to carry Canadian oil heading mostly back to Canadian refineries and to overseas markets.

This strategy has previously enabled the company to avoid State of Michigan review of the safety and necessity of the pipeline itself, and dodge the legally required consideration of alternative routes and methods that do not threaten the Great Lakes.

Take Action Now

The public has until June 29, 2017, to submit comments to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality opposing Enbridge’s bid to keep Line 5 on life support and seeking to prevent a Great Lakes oil spill disaster.

  • Submit comments at http://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/anchor_structure_public_comment
  • Draw upon information in this Action Alert, and from www.OilandWaterDontMix.org, to offer objections that are specific and factual.
  • Be sure to demand a public hearing and call for the Michigan DEQ’s full review of the environmental impact of the Enbridge request and feasible and prudent alternatives to Line 5, as required by law.
  • Written comments will be made part of the record and should reference application number 2RD-DFDK-Y35G.

 

Thank you! 

Jim Olson’s statement to Pipeline Safety Advisory Board

Public Meeting of the Michigan Pipeline Advisory Board

Petoskey, Michigan, June 12, 2017

Statement of James Olson

President and Legal Advisor, FLOW for Love Water

It’s time for our state government to stop treating our 1963 Constitution, statutes and common law as nice but meaningless environmental policy statements and start treating them as the duty the people through the Constitution and our courts have mandated.

FLOW has submitted a number of reports to the State on crude oil transport through Michigan, particularly the antiquated and dangerous twin pipelines operated by Enbridge Energy in the Straits of Mackinac. When FLOW appeared before the Pipeline Task Force created by Governor Snyder, it and other organizations urged the State to bring Enbridge Line 5 under the “rule of law.” Enbridge Line 5 raises serious concerns related to the violation of the constitution and laws of Michigan that mandate the protection of air, water, natural resources of the state, and the public trust in those resources.

Michigan’s constitution and laws, and the binding decisions of our appellate courts, impose a duty on our state agencies to protect the paramount interests of citizens and communities in the protection of air, water, natural resources, public trust and public health. From the 1970s through the 1980s, Michigan developed one of the strongest, most highly respected legal frameworks for active citizen participation and strong regulatory protections of air, water, environment and public health in the United States. A centerpiece of these laws and court decisions is the duty to review of projects that required government approval through public participation and comprehensive assessment and determination of the potential effects on water, environment and health and alternatives that where avoided or minimized those effects consistent with the state’s paramount concern for its environment and public health.

Unfortunately, over the past several years, this protective, participatory framework has fallen into shambles. The State has ignored or breached this mandatory duty to consider and determine effects, alternatives, and protect our air, water, and health from pollution or impairment. Governmental review has been narrow, shallow, and with little or minimal public notice or participation.

Last fall, it took a seasoned journalist to uncover a major permit about to be issued to a bottled water company to withdraw massive quantities of water from a headwater creek system in mid-Michigan, with less than a week remaining for public comments or participation. The law required public notice and at least 45 days for public comment. This attitude of expediency over prudence and protection has reached a crisis level in state governance. This is not the fault of dedicated, competent employees and staffs of the Departments of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources. The blame falls on legislators and political leaders who put expediency, politics, and slashed budgets over the rigorous review and protection of water, environment, and public health.

Case in point: Our state agencies involved in the approval of the siting, improving, and expanded volumes of the flow of crude oil through Enbridge Line 5 and Line 6b (which runs from the southwestern part of the state to Port Huron before crossing into Canada) have totally failed to comply with this mandatory duty to consider and determine likely effects and alternatives. Approvals by the MPSC and MDEQ regarding Enbridge’s Lines 5 and 6b have not complied with this mandatory duty.

The MPSC and MDEQ have nearly collapsed their consideration and determinations of effects and impacts and alternative routes or capacity by allowing Enbridge to divide its expansion project into many narrow segments, presumably calculated to limit the scope of consideration of impacts and alternatives to each segment. In effect, this was like looking at the effect of clipping each toe-nail rather than the effects and alternatives of the whole elephant— a near doubling of crude oil pipeline capacity in Michigan. While others debated the impacts and alternatives to the Keystone XL down through the western U.S., Enbridge launched a massive expansion through the Great Lakes and Michigan—in Michigan, we ended up with the Enbridge “Great Lakes XL.”

Inexplicably, this was done without any public notice, comment, and participation regarding this true project purpose in Michigan. Even though the MPSC and DEQ have independent authority and legal responsibility to consider the effects and alternatives of the location and siting of this massive expansion and substantial upgrade of the pipeline system in Michigan, Enbridge has not been required to comply with the legal requirements for a comprehensive impact statement and showing by Enbridge that there are no likely or potential ill effects or there exist no alternatives to this massive expansion and upgrade of the company’s pipelines through Michigan.

This is unconscionable, unlawful, and a flagrant violation of the duties imposed on the State by our state constitution and laws. In the past few years, Enbridge has implemented its plan to greatly expand crude oil pipeline transport to more than 800,000 bpd from Alberta through its Great Lakes-Michigan Lakehead System. Applications to the MPSC and MDEQ, along with news releases and reports, show a multi-billion dollar investment to nearly double the capacity of its entire Lakehead system. MPSC documents show that the original capacity of 120,000 bpd in Line 5 could be increased to 300,000 bpd by the addition of 4 pump stations. In the past few years, Enbridge has invested tens of millions to increase the capacity of Line 5 to 490,000 bpd, and most recently to 540,000 bpd by a major new arrangement for 12 pump stations and the addition of more than anti-friction injection facilities to increase capacity to meet the 600 psi limit for the line in the 1953 Easement. Nothing in the 1953 easement giving Enbridge permission to use the bottomlands of Lake Michigan where Line 5 crosses the Straits suggested, even remotely, a four-fold increase.

After the original 30-inch diameter Line 6B that was constructed across Lower Michigan in 1969 ruptured in 2010, Enbridge applied to the MPSC for approval of a new 36-inch replacement Line 6b from Indiana to Sarnia (ironically, public records show that Line 5 was approved in 1953 to save Enbridge money rather than constructing a line across Lower Michigan). Enbridge applied for short segments of the new replacement line or the addition of pump stations. Like its applications for almost doubling the capacity of Line 5, Enbridge described its project purpose as line “maintenance” and “integrity.” By the time MPSC approved each small segment, Enbridge had a new replacement line that increased capacity from 400,000 bpd of old Line 6b to 800,000 bpd for the new 6b (now called Line 78).

For example, in 2012, MPSC approved Enbridge’s application to “replace a 50-mile segment” of existing Line 6b between Ingham and Oakland counties. It did not mention this was to double crude oil from Canadian “tar sands” through Lower Michigan. At about the same time, MPSC approved four new pumping stations to increase capacity to 800,000 bpd in this new 36-inch line. (A map showing eight segments, and several pump stations, is attached to this statement for your convenience) During this same time, the MPSC approved Enbridge applications for several new pumps stations and many anti-friction injection stations to increase the flow or volume rate of crude oil in Line 5. Once again, Enbridge represented these modifications as “maintenance” or “repairs.” Enbridge has done the same in applying to the MDEQ for anchor supports for Line 5 along the 4.5 mile stretch of the twin-pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Even in Enbridge’s recent May10, 2017 application for anchor supports in the Straits, the company beguilingly states that it “plans to conduct maintenance… by installing anchor support structures.”

To date, the MPSC and MDEQ have not considered or determined the full environmental impacts and the alternative routes, capacity, or modifications for doubling crude oil transport from 700,000 bpd to 1,340,000 bpd in the Straits and in Michigan. Citizens, communities, businesses, property owners and our air, water, and natural resources have been blatantly ignored and deprived of their right to notice, participation and involvement in a matter that strikes at the core of quality of life and as the slogan says, “pure Michigan.”

It is time to address this crisis in State governance. It is time to correct this violation of by the State and Enbridge of the constitutional and legal duty to protect citizens’ public health and our air, water, natural resources and public trust (in those resources). It is time to correct the failure of our agencies and Enbridge to correctly disclose and comprehensively consider potential effects and the existence of alternatives through proper public notice and comment, participation, and transparent comprehensive consideration and determinations under the rule of law.

You as members of the Pipeline Advisory Board are urged to exercise your authority granted by Governor Snyder’s Executive Order 2015-12, and recommend that the MDEQ, MPSC, and Attorney General take all necessary and prudent steps to require Enbridge prove before the MPSC and MDEQ that (1) there is no likely risk of catastrophic harm to the Straits, our waters, fish, drinking water, riparian and public trust uses, and ecosystem from the continued transport of crude oil in the Straits, and (2) there exist no alternative routes, capacity, or modifications to other pipelines to accomplish the overall purpose of the Enbridge’s Lakehead System.


 

FLOW Board Member Calls HB 4205 Contender for Worst Michigan Environmental Bill of 21st Century

The Michigan legislature has introduced what is a sure contender for the worst Michigan environmental bill of the 21st century.  The bill, HB 4205, would prohibit all state agencies from promulgating any administrative rule that is more stringent than an applicable federal standard.  With the federal government actively seeking to dismantle historic environmental protections by lowering or eliminating a whole host of environmental standards, HB 4205 could result in irreparable and irrevocable harm to Michigan’s priceless natural resource heritage.

We cannot assign the responsibility to protect Michigan’s natural resources to the federal government.  We cannot surrender the safeguarding of Michigan’s natural resources to an administration that is contemptuous of efforts to protect land and water resources and boasts of its eagerness to eviscerate existing environmental rules. 

The Trump Administration’s pledge to repeal two administrative rules for every rule promulgated and its promise to use the Congressional Review Act to void environmental regulations are indicators of the potential harm HB 4205 could create.  The Trump Administration’s roll back of 23 environmental rules in its first 100 days is harm already incurred.

Michigan’s natural resources are globally unique, requiring vigilant protection and stewardship.  Our Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh surface waters and harbor distinctive, specialized watersheds.  Our shoreline of 3,288 miles is by far the longest freshwater coastline in the United States, shaping coastal dunes that are singularly unique natural features.  Science affirms that our inland lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands are an integrated, interconnected, mutually dependent hydrologic system providing immeasurable services and benefits to all citizens.

In all, Michigan’s natural resources are magnificent, unparalleled and sublime – a natural endowment demanding extraordinary legislative safeguarding.  HB 4205 is antithetical to Michigan’s values, laws and environmental legacy.

HB 4205 has eleven legislative co-sponsors.  Their support of this bill is irreconcilable with their constitutional responsibilities.  Michigan’s Constitution explicitly defines the primary duty legislators have to protect Michigan’s natural resources.  Article 4, Section 52 of Michigan’s Constitution states:

The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people.  The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction.

Complementing this constitutional mandate is the Public Trust Doctrine, embodying a set of foundational principles, long recognized by law, that require proper stewardship of Great Lakes resources.  The doctrine creates a fiduciary responsibility of stewardship on the part of government for the preservation of these resources for the benefit of the public.  Described in Michigan jurisprudence as a “high, solemn and perpetual duty,” the Public Trust Doctrine creates a foundational, unifying, coherent legal framework for defining and prescribing rights, obligations, duties and responsibilities for protecting public resources that government – and the legislators behind HB 4205 – cannot ignore. 

Please encourage your friends and family to contact the eleven co-sponsors of HB 4205: 

Triston Cole – (primary), Jim Runestad, Aaron Miller, Kathy Crawford, Michele Hoitenga, Steven Johnson, Peter Lucido, Beau LaFave, Tom Barrett, Sue Allor, John Reilly.

Stanley “Skip” Pruss co-founded 5 Lakes Energy in 2010, specializing in energy policy and clean energy system development.

Keeping Our Great Lakes Clean

 

Some of my favorite childhood memories include hiking trips across Northern Michigan and taking in the beauty that is our Great Lakes. As my own children grew up, we regularly went on family trips across Michigan because I wanted to make sure the natural wonders of our state could be passed along to the next generation.

The Great Lakes mean so much to me personally, as they do to millions of Michiganders. They are more than just an economic engine and drinking water source: they are a way of life in Michigan.

That’s why we must protect our Lakes at all costs – and why I am very concerned about the unique threat posed by the Line 5 pipeline running underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Any pipeline leak – no matter how minor – could devastate the Great Lakes watershed and contaminate much of the safe drinking water 40 million people rely on.

According to the University of Michigan, the volume of water going through the Straits of Mackinac is ten times that of Niagara Falls, and it’s rapidly changing currents could carry oil up and down Michigan’s coasts in the event of a spill. Like you, I was alarmed by recent reports that sections of Line 5 are missing critical protective coatings.

In March, I teamed up with Senator Stabenow to demand some answers from Enbridge, whose past assurances about the structural integrity of Line 5 run directly counter to these reports. Here’s what we want to know:

  • How many areas of the pipeline have lost coating, to what extent has coating loss occurred, and how and when were these areas discovered? 
  • What inspections and remedial action are underway to address existing and future coating loss?
  • If areas along Line 5 lack a coating or wrap, how does that affect the structural integrity of the pipeline?

These are just a few of the many serious questions must be addressed by Enbridge. But while we work to find these answers, we can’t afford to keep our eye off other concerns related to pipeline safety in the Great Lakes.

For example, U.S. Coast Guard officials have told me that we do not have adequate research or a plan for cleanup of oil spills in fresh water, especially under heavy ice cover and adverse weather conditions that we see during Michigan winters.

Last year, I was pleased that my bipartisan pipeline safety bill was signed into law by then-President Obama. Among other provisions, it required the federal agency overseeing pipeline safety to consider ice cover when developing oil spill response plans, designated the Great Lakes a high consequence area – making any pipeline in the Lakes subject to higher standards – and required pipeline reviews and oversight on the age and integrity of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

I’m also focused on efforts to classify Line 5 – and other pipelines crossing the Great Lakes – as offshore pipelines. Right now, Line 5 is considered an onshore pipeline, meaning it’s held to less stringent regulatory standards and liability requirements in the event of a spill. Given the potential for significant economic and ecological harm from an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this change in classification is critical.

Finally, I’ll be looking at ways to improve freshwater spill research and make updates to our coastal maps and data in order to better safeguard our natural resources.

We must continue to highlight the risks posed by Line 5, and FLOW’s efforts to shine a light on these risks is more important than ever. From keeping our Great Lakes free of pollution to highlighting the dangers of invasive species like Asian Carp, I applaud FLOW’s commitment to protecting this unique ecosystem. Together, we can work to keep our Great Lakes clean and safe for future generations of Michiganders.