Tag: holiday

PR: State of Michigan Takes a “Holiday” from Preventing Line 5 Oil Spill Disaster in Great Lakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         March 9, 2017

Contact:  Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director                                               Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org

FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                     Office: (231) 944-1568, Cell: (570) 872-4956


State of Michigan Takes a “Holiday” from Preventing Line 5 Oil Spill Disaster in Great Lakes

Snyder Administration Watches and Waits as the 64-year-old Dual Pipelines Missing Their Anti-Rust Coating and Structural Supports Continue to Use Mackinac Straits as a High-Risk Shortcut to Private Profits

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The Snyder administration, in two letters (here and here) released Wednesday, indicated it will seek more information, but take no enforcement action, while continuing to accept Enbridge’s assurances that all is well with dual oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits that the Canadian company itself has indicated are missing portions of an external, anti-rust coating and lacking 18 anchor supports to prevent the pipes from grinding and bending along the bottom and bursting.

The letters – signed by Attorney General Bill Schuette, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether – describe “inviting” Enbridge to explain the company’s September 2016 report that identifies 19 areas along the submerged steel pipes where the anti-corrosion coating is missing. Enbridge’s report euphemistically calls the missing portions “holidays,” industry jargon for areas where the coating has worn or fallen off. The report outlines a plan for assessing Line 5’s integrity where the coating is gone and acidic waste excreted by invasive mussels that blanket the pipes could be causing corrosion.

Enbridge claims that the report is merely “hypothetical,” even though the report flatly states that the external coating is missing and the words “hypothetical” and “theoretical” are not found in the document.

“The State of Michigan is moving in slow motion to question Enbridge’s claims that its own report doesn’t mean what is plainly says,” said Liz Kirkwood, an environmental attorney and executive director of FLOW, a Traverse City-based water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes. “When the pipelines finally fail, will the state invite Enbridge to explain what the thick, black substance is pouring out of the 64-year-old pipes and into the drinking water source for nearby Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and roughly 5 million Michiganders?”

The state issued its March 8 letter in response to February 17 correspondence from the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, which FLOW co-leads with several other leading organizations, that raised grave and detailed concerns about the condition of Line 5 and called for its immediate shutdown.

An Enbridge representative is expected to explain its report at the March 13 quarterly meeting in Lansing of the governor-appointed Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, whose members include Attorney General Schuette. The advisory board is overseeing the completion of two nominally independent studies funded by Enbridge: one on the financial risk to communities and the Pure Michigan economy of a Line 5 oil spill in the Mackinac Straits and the other on alternatives to the aging pipeline that could avoid such a disaster. These two studies are expected by June 2017.

Enbridge is infamous for leaking more than one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed near Marshall, Michigan, in 2010, fouling nearly 40 miles of the river and shore, sickening numerous people, harming wildlife, and forcing more than 100 families to permanently abandon their homes and property.

The failure to adequately maintain the Line 5 pipelines, including a lack of supports to prevent bending of the pipeline – is a breach of Enbridge’s 1953 legal easement agreement with the State of Michigan that allows the company to occupy public waters and state bottomlands. The failures documented in the Enbridge report add to the mounting evidence of the unacceptable risk that this infrastructure poses to the Great Lakes.

A three-minute video of Line 5 pipelines in the Straits, researched and edited by FLOW’s engineering expert Dr. Ed Timm, reveals the physical deterioration of Line 5, with missing and dislodged coating, broken bands, detached wooden structural slats, unsupported segments, and possible rust and pitting.

In addition, a just-released technical note prepared by Dr. Timm regarding Line 5 reinforces the urgent need for the state to immediately shut down Line 5 while it evaluates the integrity of the aging infrastructure that pumps nearly 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Mackinac Straits before eventually reaching refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. Specifically, this technical note concludes the following:

  • Line 5 is not immune to corrosion and stress cracking despite its thick walls, contrary to Enbridge’s claims;
  • The asphalt enamel based coating system is compromised or missing on many areas of the pipe;
  • The extent of the coverage by invasive mussels on the pipelines makes it “impossible” to evaluate how much of the coating system is compromised;
  • The easement-required wooden slats that were designed to protect from point loads and abrasion are missing entirely on portions of the pipelines; and
  • The peak currents in the Mackinac Straits are nearly twice the maximum velocity considered when the pipeline was designed, adding significant stress;
  • A full study of the integrity of the coating system that includes a careful examination of the impact of the biofouling on the pipelines is critical to making a proper fitness-for-service evaluation.

“The evidence demands that the State of Michigan respond and fulfill its affirmative fiduciary duty,” wrote Jim Olson, an environmental attorney and FLOW’s president, in a March 9 follow-up letter to the State of Michigan. “It is not enough to stand by the sidelines and merely request additional information from Enbridge given the high risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that would devastate our public drinking waters and our water-dependent economy. ‘Pure Michigan’ should not just be an advertising slogan.”

For more information, visit the FLOW website at www.FLOWforWater.org

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FINAL FLOW-Line 5 Media Release-Pipeline Coating 3-9-2017

PR: In Wake of New Pipeline Concerns, Groups Call On Snyder, Schuette to Begin Shutting Down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac


Monday, February 20, 2017

Media Contact:  David Holtz 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org


In Wake of New Pipeline Concerns, Groups Call On Snyder,

Schuette to Begin Shutting Down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac

Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette must require Enbridge to shut off the flow of oil through Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac following disclosures that the Canadian oil transport company’s pipeline has lost its protective coating, citizens groups said in a letter to the governor and attorney general that was released today.  

The alarming disclosures, contained in a report filed by Enbridge in September with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, documents areas along the pipeline in the turbulent Straits where anticorrosion protective coating is missing.   The report was submitted by Enbridge as part of a federal court order directing the company to investigate the impact of invasive mussels that have accumulated along the nearly 5-mile twin pipelines in the Straits.

“It’s shocking that Enbridge is going around the state claiming Line 5 is as good as new and will last forever while at the same time they know these pipelines are falling apart in the worst possible place for an oil spill,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW.  “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette must initiate the process of shutting down these dangerous pipelines and should begin doing it today—before they rupture.”

In a letter sent Friday to Snyder and Schuette, the groups say failure to maintain protective anti-corrosion coating violates the state’s 1953 easement agreement allowing Enbridge to operate pipelines in the Straits.  Enbridge has twice previously violated the agreement by failing to maintain required pipeline anchors. 

“Research shared with you previously warned that pipeline corrosion had negatively impacted protective coating; the missing protective coating, corrosion, and the weight of invasive mussels and Enbridge’s decision to increase the volume of oil flowing through the Straits pipelines creates a substantial and unacceptable risk of failure,” the groups told Snyder and Schuette in their Friday letter.  “The further admission and documentation from Enbridge that the protective pipeline coating is falling off and missing increases the likelihood of damaging corrosion and a pipeline rupture and the disastrous consequences that would follow.  Under the terms of the easement, public trust duties, and the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, as trustees you are required to act to prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

In a previous letter sent to to Attorney General Schuette in April 2016, the groups outlined the process for terminating the state’s easement with Enbridge based on several easement violations and subsequently met with Schuette’s senior staff to discuss the process.   Thus far, however, there has been no action taken to begin decommissioning Line 5.  Instead the state has commissioned a study of alternatives to Line 5, with the results expected to be released in June.

“This latest revelation is yet another a wakeup call for the state,” said David Holtz, Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee. “The question is whether the state will continue to hit the snooze alarm or rise up to the threat from aging oil pipelines in the Great Lakes.”

Research conducted by organizations supporting the decommissioning of Line 5 has shown that pipeline corrosion and structural integrity questions point to an urgent need for the state to act.

“We’ve always known that this 64-year-old pipeline was constructed only to last just 50 years. Now we’re seeing the disastrous effects of placing big oil and gas interests before public health,” said Food & Water Watch Michigan Organizer Mariah Urueta. “If Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette continue to side with Enbridge and refuse to shut down Line 5, Michigan’s water, communities and way of life are in dire jeopardy. Line 5 is no longer a pipeline -it’s a ticking time bomb that will destroy our resources if we don’t defuse it and shut down Line 5 today.”


Enbridge report: http://bit.ly/enbridge-biota-report

Letter to Snyder & Schuette:  http://bit.ly/snyder-schuette-letter