Tag: Pipeline 5

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.

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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