Editor's Note: This is one of the comments given to the BOC in response to an item on the agenda by Commissioner Jewett to support the Enbridge Line 5 Proposal. The BOC does not publish public comments. We feel the comments made were worthy of note and consideration and are publishing them in this blog.
Normally, I’d be working right now. But since I heard, last night, there was a proposal to support Enbridge’s Line 5, I thought I’d come hang out with y’all this morning and give you my thoughts, instead.
As a student of Eastern Michigan University’s Environmental Science and Society program, this concerns my scholastic career and beyond, as well as my livelihood as a resident of this great state.
As Michiganders, Great Lake knowledge is practically engrained into our DNA, so you all probably know that the Great Lakes account for about 20% of the world’s, and about 90% of the United States’ surface freshwater.
The Great Lakes Commission states that the Great Lakes system provides drinking water for 48 million people, the lakes directly generate 1.5 million jobs, and 60 billion dollars in wages annually. Our beautiful area is not only invaluable to our environment and our health, it’s also a major economic driver for our state, our region, and our country.
According to Enbridge.com, Line 5 supplies 55 percent of Michigan’s statewide propane needs. That sounds like a lot, but according to the United States Energy Information Administration, less than 10 percent of Michigan homes are heated by propane. So, there are less than 4 million households in Michigan, according to Michigan.gov. 10% of that is less than 400,000, and 55% of that, is less than 220,000 households heated by propane which Enbridge supplies. If you want to do the math to figure out how many of those homes are in the county, be my guest!
Now, that’s not an ignorable number, but there are other heating options for households, as a general rule. We don’t have other options when it comes to water, and I know we’re not sucking water from the lake with a straw, but unhealthy lakes mean unhealthy ground water.
Any way you look at it, the pros of line 5 do not outweigh the cons. Things like 60 billion dollars in wages for people who depend on the lakes for jobs could well be in jeopardy if Enbridge had another mishap like the one that spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil in Minnesota in 1991, or when they spilled over 1 million gallons into the Kalamazoo river in 2010, or when one of their lines blew up in Kentucky, killing one person less than a week ago.
I know what you’re thinking: “but Kyle, Line 5 is 119 miles away from this very building. There’s no way the 30% of employment attributed to tourism in Traverse City (according to Traverse City.com) would be negatively affected when the pipeline has an issue.” And it might not, but, according to the University of Michigan’s Water Center, a spill from Line 5 could “spread as far west as Beaver Island and as far Southeast as Rogers City in only 20 days, so it begs the question as to why we would support putting communities like ours in harm's way. Think about the costs and range of environmental damage that still exist from disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
As someone who appreciates fiscally conservative ideology, I don’t think it makes sense, financially, to risk the costs of cleanup or the revenue lost from tourism to keep line 5 active, especially when that goes against the will of your constituents.