Tag: Pipeline 5

Officials require more supports beneath oil pipes

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

By The Associated Press

July 25, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Two oil pipelines at the bottom the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan will get additional support structures to help prevent potentially devastating spills, officials said Thursday.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said they had put Enbridge Energy Partners LP on notice following the company’s acknowledgement it was partly out of compliance with an agreement dating to 1953, when the pipelines were laid in the Straits of Mackinac.

As a condition of an easement granted by the state, Enbridge agreed that support anchors would be placed at least every 75 feet. In a response last month to a lengthy series of questions about the condition of the lines from Schuette and Wyant, the Canadian company acknowledged some sections don’t meet the requirement, although the average distance between supports is 54 feet.

“We will insist that Enbridge fully comply with the conditions of the Straits Pipeline Easement to protect our precious environmental and economic resources and limit the risk of disaster threatening our waters,” Schuette said.

Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said the company had agreed to add more supports, even though engineering analyses peer-reviewed by experts at Columbia University and the University of Michigan concluded previously that gaps of up to 140 feet between supports would be safe. The work will begin in early August and be completed within 90 days, she said. Afterward, the average distance between supports will be 50 feet.

“The Straits of Mackinac crossing has been incident-free since it was constructed in 1953,” Larson said. “Through even greater oversight, the use of new technology and ensuring all risks are monitored and where necessary mitigated, Enbridge is committed to maintaining this incident-free record into the future.”

The two pipelines are part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 runs through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac, then continuing to Sarnia, Ontario.

The line divides into two 20-inch pipes beneath the straits at depths reaching 270 feet and carries nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. The 5-mile-wide straits area is ecologically sensitive and a major tourist draw.

A June report by hydrodynamics specialist David Schwab of the University of Michigan Water Center concluded that because of strong currents, a rupture of the pipeline would quickly foul shorelines miles away in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Larson said Enbridge began installing steel anchors for the underwater lines in 2002, replacing sandbag supports. They consist of 10-foot-long screws augured into the lakebed on either side of the pipes, holding a steel saddle that provides support. No washouts have been seen during inspections since then, she said.

Schuette and Wyant said their staffs are still reviewing Enbridge’s responses to other questions about the pipelines.

Enbridge Energy Partners is a unit of Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.

DEQ and Attorney General Determine Enbridge in Violation of 1953 Easement

On July 1st, FLOW along with 16 conservation, water and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder urging greater state action to regulate Enbridge’s 61 year-old Line 5, which transports some 23 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products under the Straits of Mackinac each day. This means that at any given moment, 365 days a year, nearly one million gallons of crude oil is flowing under the Straits. The letter pointed out potential violations in operations and public disclosure requirements established by Public Act 10 of 1953 and the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. Read the press release here. 

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Attorney General have since determined, in a July 24, 2014 letter, that the company is in violation of the 1953 easement’s spacing requirement for pipeline supports. In response, the DEQ issued Enbridge a Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) permit for maintenance and structural improvements on the same day (Enbridge’s final permit No. is 14-49-0017-P). Read the official letter here.

Although this is a step in the right direction, FLOW and other groups continue to urge the Governor and the DEQ to require an occupancy agreement for the entire pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

A State analysis of reasonable and proper pipeline procedures is necessary given modern technology, industry standards, products being transported, and risks to our public resources. Requiring Enbridge file a GLSLA occupancy agreement would allow this analysis and fulfill this term of the easement. As trustee of the Great Lakes, Governor Snyder has the authority under the 1953 easement, Act 10 of 1953, and the common law of public trust to demand that Enbridge file such an agreement.

FLOW and the other coalition groups from the July 1st sign-on letter are planning to meet with Governor Rick Snyder’s office and the DEQ later this month to discuss the State’s vital role in regulating the Line 5 pipeline and protecting these public trust waters of the Great Lakes.

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.

 

 

U-M computer model shows Straits pipeline break would devastate Great Lakes

Click here to read the article on Detroitfreepress.com

By Keith Matheny – Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

July 10, 2014

A rupture of 61-year-old, underwater oil pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac would be “the worst possible place” for a spill on the Great Lakes, with catastrophic results, according to a University of Michigan researcher studying potential impacts of a spill.

David Schwab, a research scientist at the U-M Water Center, retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he studied Great Lakes water flows and dynamics for more than 30 years. He’s the author of a new study done in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation looking at different scenarios for potential oil spills in the Straits from Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge’s Line 5.

“I can’t think — in my experience — of another place on the Great Lakes where an oil spill would have as wide an area of impact, in as short of time, as at the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Line 5 is a set of two oil pipelines that runs from Superior, Wis., through the Upper Peninsula, underwater through the Straits and then down through the Lower Peninsula before connecting to a hub in Sarnia, Ontario. The lines transport about 23 million gallons of oil and other petroleum products, such as natural gas liquids, through the Straits daily.

A July 2010 spill near Marshall caused by a ruptured Enbridge pipeline, and concerns about the underwater pipeline through the Straits, already has prompted state and federal scrutiny. Michigan U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have sought information on Line 5, as have several members of Congress. And state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant late last month announced they will cochair a multiagency government task force to look at petroleum pipelines and the health, safety and environmental issues they potentially pose in Michigan.

Part 1: Three years after oil spill, a slow recovery haunts Kalamazoo River

Part 2: Enbridge’s expanded oil pipeline draws ire of homeowners in its path

Schwab looked at six different scenarios — and all spelled a catastrophe for the lakes. That’s due in large part to the Straits of Mackinac being “really, a strange place on the Great Lakes,” he said. The strength of water flowing through the Straits is 20 times the amount necessary to keep Lakes Michigan and Huron at the same water level, he said. And the flows go in both directions — sometimes from Michigan to Huron, sometimes from Huron to Michigan — and change directions every few days.

Schwab created six animation models looking at what would happen if Line 5 ruptured at the northern, middle and southern end of the Straits — both at times when the water is flowing into Lake Michigan and when it’s flowing into Lake Huron. His projection was for a 1 million gallon oil spill lasting 12 hours.

“One million gallons is conservatively the amount of oil that resides in the pipelines in the Straits at any time,” he said.

The spill scenarios show that, depending on current directions, a spill could be transported eastward into Lake Huron, westward into Lake Michigan and move back and forth through the Straits several times. Shoreline areas most impacted would be Mackinac Island, Bois Blanc Island and the Lake Huron shoreline east of Mackinaw City. Contamination could spread as far west as Beaver Island in Lake Michigan to Rogers City in Lake Huron, the study found.

“What this report shows is (that) a significant oil spill in the Straits would be an ecological disaster for the Great Lakes,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. “It would severely impact shipping and tourism.”

Such a spill would severely damage “the Great Lakes brand,” Buchsbaum said. “The Straits of Mackinac are iconic. They are what many people think of when they think of the Great Lakes. It would be a death blow for the Great Lakes ecology and economy.”

Line 5 is older than an Enbridge oil pipeline that ruptured near Marshall in July 2010, causing the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history and necessitating a $1-billion cleanup of the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek that is still not complete.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum said the company shares the National Wildlife Federation’s “views on the critical nature of the Great Lakes ecosystem in general, and the Straits in particular.” This new report will advance “continued and meaningful discussion on pipeline safety in the Straits,” he added.

Manshum noted that Line 5 “has been incident-free since it was constructed in 1953, and through even greater oversight, the use of new technology and ensuring all risks are monitored — and, where necessary, mitigated — Enbridge is committed to maintaining this incident-free record into the future.”

Contact Keith Matheny: 313-222-5021, kmatheny@freepress.com or on Twitter @keithmatheny

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 Takes Lead Authoring Line 5 Letter to Governor: Elevating the Public Trust Duty to Protect the Great Lakes

On July 1, 2014, FLOW, along with sixteen other conservation, water, and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians submitted a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, urging him to address Enbridge’s 61 year-old Line 5 oil pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan-Huron. The letter addressed Enbridge’s lack of transparency and disclosure regarding its current use of Line 5, as well as the Company’s compliance record with the terms and conditions of the 1953 easement and agreements it made under Act 10, P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), and public trust law.

State’s Perpetual Public Trust Duty to Protect Great Lakes

As the State’s primary trustee of the Great Lakes public trust waters and bottomlands, Governor Snyder has the solemn perpetual duty to ensure that the actions of both public and private parties are not likely to harm this shared resource. This means that the State must ensure uninterrupted use for fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking supplies for future generations.

Letter’s Requests to the Governor

The signatories have asked that the Governor exercise his broad legal authority to demand that Enbridge:

  1. Submit the information the Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality requested in their joint April 29 letter and make such information available to the public.
  2. Submit detailed information regarding the product contents, use, and safety of Pipe Line 5.
  3. File a conveyance application under the GLSLA.
  4. Achieve full compliance with all express terms and conditions of the easement.

Enbridge’s Track Record

Since 1999, Enbridge has been responsible for over 800 oil spills, leaking a total of 6.8 million gallons of oil into the environment. Michiganders will remember Enbridge’s catastrophic Line 6B pipeline spill along a 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River, discharging some one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil and resulting in a $1 billion cleanup cost. Enbridge’s Lack of Disclosure Raises Questions About Compliance with 1953 Easement Based on Enbridge’s track record and the ecologically sensitive location of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, the signatories urged the State to take swift and meaningful action to ensure full compliance with the terms of the easement and the long-term protection of the Great Lakes. A review of the 1953 easement revealed a lack of transparency, disclosure, and compliance with the following expressed terms and conditions:

  1. Maximum Operating Pressure (MOP): The MOP of the pipeline is 600 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). Recent data raises questions as to whether or not Enbridge is adhering to this pressure requirement.
  2. Complete Records of Oil: Under the terms of the easement, The State of Michigan has express authority to require Enbridge to disclose and make available complete records of oil and all other substances being transported in the Line 5 pipelines.
  3. Maximum Span of Unsupported Pipeline: The records are incomplete as to whether or not Enbridge has complied with the 75 foot maximum span of unsupported pipeline requirement. Enbridge’s recent “maintenance” DEQ permit requests to place anchoring supports on the bottomlands of the lakes raises questions about full compliance with this easement term.
  4. Maximum Curvature Requirement: Enbridge should disclose current data showing that no section of Line 5 violates the maximum curvature requirement of a 2050 foot radius, as specified in section A(4) of the the 1953 easement.
  5. Adequacy of Liability Insurance Provision: The term of the easement requires that Enbridge maintain at least $1 million in insurance coverage. However, the $1 billion cost associated with the breach of Line 6B along the Kalamazoo River raises serious questions regarding the sufficiency of the protection offered by the 1953 easement.

The absence of such information – all of which is mandatory though Public Act 10 of 1953, the 1953 easement, the GLSLA, and the public trust doctrine – makes it impossible to truly assess the risks and ramifications of a devastating crude oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes. Moreover, as trustee of the Great Lakes, the State of Michigan and its agencies have unfettered authority under the GLSLA and public trust law to demand that Enbridge provide such transparency, discloser, accountability, and compliance.

Next Steps

Line 5 is a Michigan and Great Lakes public trust issue, not a partisan one. The time to act is now given the age of the pipeline and Enbridge’s recent efforts to increase Line 5’s capacity and a change in product to synthetic crudes. Public trust authority empowers the state to require Enbridge to disclose all relevant information on Line 5 and provide much needed transparency and accountability. This, in turn, will  ensure our common waters are protected for current and future generations.

Given the gravity of this situation, all signatories of the letter have asked to meet with Governor Snyder to discuss the aforementioned desired actions at his earliest convenience. Below is the list of groups that have signed-on to this letter.

  • Michigan Environmental Council (MEC)
  • For Love of Water (FLOW)
  • Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC)
  • Michigan Land Use Institute
  • League of Conservation Voters (LCV)
  • Freshwater Future
  • Northwest Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC)
  • Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet Counties
  • Article 32.org
  • Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC)
  • Michigan Resource Stewards
  • SURF Great Lakes.org
  • Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment (SACCPJE)
  • TC350.org
  • The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC)
  • Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
  • Straits Area Audubon Society

Click here to read the letter to Governor Snyder

Click here to read the Press Release

News Articles

AP News Article 

ABC12 News Article

Detroit News Article 

Toledo News Now Article 

The State News Article

WGVU News Article

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