of Santa Barbara, California; fourteen years before another 143,000 gallons spewed from a ruptured pipeline. Why was the sand stained with oil? Was it a pinhole leak in a nearby pipeline? A small spill from one of the many offshore drilling platforms? I don’t know. My focus was elsewhere in those days. What I do know is that if you ask me about my time in Santa Barbara, I will tell you about shoe covers.
I fear the same could happen to the pristine shorelines of Lakes Michigan and Huron.
I first wrote a blog about Line 5 in 2013, after reading the National Wildlife Federation report “Sunken Hazard;” after listening to scientists express concerns that the technology and lessons learned from ocean spills might not apply to a freshwater spill in the Great Lakes; after watching a University of Michigan simulation demonstrate how rapidly a spill would disseminate in the heavy current and strong winds of the Straits.
At the end of this month, two independent reports commissioned by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuett, are scheduled to be released. The studies will shape the debate on the future of two oil pipelines stretching beneath the waters of the Straits of Mackinac. One analyzes six alternatives to transporting the light crude oil and natural gas currently flowing through Line 5 from western Canada to a refinery in Sarnia, Canada. The other provides a comprehensive review of the economic and environmental impact of a worst-case spill.
The Line 5 decision, which is solely in the hands of Snyder and Schuett, is a decision that touches all 9,883,640 citizens in the state—from the safety of our drinking water to the ability to sail, hike, boat, and play safely, cleanly, along the 3,288 miles of our coastline.
It is a business decision. For it affects the value of homes, cottages, marinas, restaurants, shops, breweries, and resorts along Lakes Michigan and Huron. An oil spill will slow the steady stream of visitors to the state—like the 113 million who, according to Tourism Economics, spent over $22.8 billion in 2014. It will affect the 4.3 million registered boaters—with boats of all shapes and sizes. It is why over 230 businesses have signed on to the Oil and Water Don’t Mix Campaign and another fifty-five joined the Great Lakes Business Network. From Mackinac Island to Traverse City to Grand Rapids to Chicago, business leaders are calling Line 5 too risky for the benefits derived. It is why 25 cities, 11counties, 26 townships, and 15 tribal organizations are publicly calling for the decommissioning of Line 5.
And so I ask the Governor to make it easy for me, and thousands like me, to hear directly from the experts about options and worst case scenarios. Have the courage to hold multiple public hearings, including one in Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, where memories of Enbridge spilling one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River are still fresh. Have the willingness to listen to concerns and comments.
I want to wear flip-flops in my home, not shoe covers. And, clearly, I am not alone.
Urgent 6/22/2017 Update to Flip Flop Blog
The state of Michigan scrapped the report on the environmental and economic risks associated with Line 5 because of a conflict of interest by one of the researchers. The researcher was working simultaneously on the Line 5 study for the state and a project for Enbridge. To learn more visit http://michiganradio.org/post/deq-scraps-line-5-safety-report.
Meanwhile, Enbridge has filed a request to add an additional 22 anchor supports to the aging pipeline. The public has until June 29 to provide comment on the request to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.
The cynic in me suspects there is a link—that Enbridge knowingly hired the researcher involved in Michigan’s study to further delay the truth; that the company is using the delay to continue bandaging a pipeline under attack by a mushrooming group of citizens, scientists, governments, and businesses; that if the DEQ approves the investment in the anchors, Enbridge will use that as a lever to demand the continuation of Line 5, regardless of risk.
But since I believe cynicism is one of the Achilles Heel’s to democracy, I prefer to ask why the state of Michigan would choose to piecemeal decisions about Line 5? The risk to our water and way of life is too great. Decommission the pipeline UNTIL a complete assessment is conducted by an independent organization as to the safety and efficacy of the pipeline; UNTIL alternative transportation methods are reviewed; UNTIL the economic and environmental risk to Michigan associated with a spill is truly weighed against the benefits; UNTIL the money, machinery, and expertise required to contain a spill in fresh water is available regardless of weather.
We cannot afford to darken our water or our sand with oil! Please take a moment to sign a petition drafted by the Oil and Water Don’t Mix organization calling for a halt in the flow of oil until these critical questions are answered. Thank you.
Update as of 6/22/2017
The state of Michigan has scrapped a risk study on Enbridge’s Line 5 and fired the contractor just a week before a first draft of the report was to be released due to a conflict of interest by one of the investigators. To learn more click on Michigan Public Radio
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