Berta Meserve and
Jim Olson, founder of FLOW (For the Love of Water) gave a stirring and alarming report to the Benzie Dems and a group of concerned citizens, on Saturday, Feb 16th, 2019, on the status of Line 5 and environmental resource protection in general. Jim’s opening statement was that there is a great need to bring all water, air and natural resources in the state of Michigan under the control of rule of law. He reported that under Article 4, Sec. 52 of the Michigan Constitution it states clearly that:
“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.”
The Republican controlled legislature has been dodging this law.
Jim admonished citizens to check to see if their Michigan legislators voted to block Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order to reorganize the Department of Environmental Quality changing its name to the Dept of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). This reshaped agency would have included a “Clean Water Public Advocate,” “Environmental Justice Public Advocate” and an “Office of Climate and Energy.” Citizens must hammer Republican MoC’s to explain why they voted to block, and what they are doing to get PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) out of the drinking water serving over 2 million people in the state. Jim explained that this is not a new problem. PFAS are everywhere. We’ve known about the contamination for more than 10 years, and yet our Republican dominated legislature has not deemed it necessary to set limits for the amounts of PFAS that are dumped into our water systems. One of the reasons may be that the automobile industry has been one of the largest major contributors to PFAS pollution.
Currently, the deal Snyder struck gives Enbridge Energy a 99 year lease for Line 5 and approximately a 10 year window to build the Tunnel while continuing to send oil through the existing twin pipelines. When Line 6B ruptured and polluted the Kalamazoo River they were given a "pat on the back" as they then replaced 6B, doubling it’s capacity! At the same time flow was increased on Line 5!
Currents at the Straits have scoured away the bottom land beneath the pipe so that in many places it no longer lies flat on the lakebed floor. Enbridge put saddles or anchors over the pipes, securing them to the bottom calling it a "repair" instead of the "design change" it was, which should have been approved by the legislature according to Public Doctrine. This was one of the many underhanded actions by Enbridge and allowed by Snyder. An appeal in 2018 was made by Mackinac Island, the Tribes and Mackinaw City to revoke the easement. The new agreement, unknown by many, allows for a THIRD Line to be constructed under the Straits!
A large "Red Herring" being perpetrated by Enbridge and Republicans in general to keep the line operational, is that the UP is completely dependent on propane transported through Line 5. While one in five UP residents (about 55,000 people) do receive propane through the line, it can be be delivered safely using two railroad tankers or four extra delivery tanker trucks per day. Truck delivery is already being implemented at Rapid River, though with smaller trucks. A 4 inch Line could also be constructed at Lake Superior to fulfill the needs of the UP as well.
Jim reported that the two pipelines, Line 5 and Line 6B are the lines controlled by Enbridge to transport fossil fuels from Canada across Michigan. Previously, Enbridge pumped 350 thousand barrels of fuel through these lines per day. They are currently transporting over 700 thousand barrels a day increasing the likelihood of a break and damage done to the water and the environment.
In the event that a Line 5 spill occurs, it would affect 700 miles of shoreline, and incur $45 billion dollars in lost shipping alone within two weeks. This does not include damage to businesses or pollution clean-up. In 2017, (as stated earlier) Gov. Snyder updated the deal with Enbridge to build a tunnel to encase the pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac. The recent agreements between Governor Snyder and Enbridge allow the continued operation of the existing Line 5 pipeline for a period of 7 – 10 years, while the tunnel is designed and built.
In Snyder’s haste to secure this deal, his administration failed to conduct a risk management study in the event of a worst case scenario if the line breaks. Currently, Enbridge has a 1.8 billion insurance policy which was approved by the Bridge Authority. And the liability does NOT include pollution damage or damage to shipping. The upshot is that Enbridge’s insurance is woefully deficient, and Michigan is not a named insurer. The state of Michigan, and ultimately Michigan tax payers, could be on the hook for billions of dollars.
What to do next? Citizens must start demanding that our environmental resources be protected under rule of law. Citizens should support lawsuits brought by Michigan’s Attorney General to protect these resources, as well as supporting the appeal made by Mackinac Island, the Tribes and Mackinaw City. We need to help our Representatives understand the need to revoke the easement and shut down Line 5. Line 5 is 66 years old and the likelihood of a major spill occurring increases by the day.