Why Risk the Great Lakes to the Next Anchor Drag During an Indefinite Tunnel Build

August 10, 2019

The following Article was provided by Leonard Page, Vice Chair,  Straits of Mackinac Alliance Cheboygan.  We are posting it here as a service to our members.

 

This responds to the various pro-Enbridge columns recently published. What Michigan needs is an immediate guarantee of no oil spills anywhere in the Great Lakes basin. The State is morally and legally required, under the public trust doctrine, to preserve and protect the Great Lakes from harm. Michigan has no obligation of any kind to serve as a permanent high-risk shortcut to get western Canadian oil to Sarnia - for the Canadian market and export.

The Michigan Tech Risk Study of 2018 (paid for by Enbridge) established that a worst-case spill in the Straits could mean 2.5 million gallons of western Canadian oil in the Upper Great Lakes. U-M David Schwab’s study of 2016 indicated that a spill could oil 740 miles of shoreline and wetlands. MSU Robert Richardson’s damage study of 2018 established a conservative damage figure of $6.3- 45 billion (if you include shipping delay costs) from a spill. 

We are talking about 23 million gallons (540,000 barrels) of mostly western Canadian oil products going daily down 645 miles of Line 5 each day from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. Almost 95% of that volume is being delivered to Sarnia, Ontario. . The non-Straits portion (640 miles) has leaked 33 times spilling over a million gallons, The April 1, 2018 anchor drag severed several electrical lines and damaged the line. The next anchor drag will occur anytime a ship crossing through the Straits has a navigation emergency. No amount of signage, warnings or monitoring can stop that.

The benefits to Michigan? --not much. About 1300 barrels a day are stripped out at Rapid RIver for 12,000 Yooper propane users. This volume can be shipped to Rapid RIver by means of 1-2 railcars a day at a cost of less than a nickel a gallon (See London Economics International report of 2018). Propane is about $2 a gallon and there is absolutely no shortage of propane as occurred in 2014. Indeed, the USA is now a major exporter of propane. Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit gets about 33,000 barrels a day from Line 5 It has a total feed capacity of about 130,000 barrels. Enbridge constantly “fudges” data-- it claims it fuels 120,000 Michigan vehicles a day -- but fails to mention that this is only 1.5% of our registered vehicles. None of the gasoline or propane produced for the lower peninsula market from Line 5 is vital or essential for Michigan users - since there are other alternatives readily available at almost no increase in price. The Dynamic Risk Alternative Study of 2017, also paid for by Enbridge, found that a Line 5 shutdown would mean only a 1-2 cent increase in per gallon retail gas costs. So much for the “vital to Michigan’s energy needs” lie. Line 5 property tax revenues would probably be replaced and likely generate even greater revenue after the vintage, 66 year old line is removed and the land is returned to normal tax roles.

Where are we right now? Enbridge proposes to build a tunnel but wants to keep pumping sarnia- bound oil during an indefinite build period. (Last year, it used a 10 year build forecast - now it is down to 5 to 7 years) What Enbridge doesn’t want to talk about is that its varying projections would be extended by technical problems encountered and delays attributed to its failure to get permits from the state or federal authorities. Governor Whitmer said pumping oil in the waters of the Straits during an indefinite tunnel build was not in Michigan’s interest and demanded that the twin pipelines cease operating in the Straits within two years. That’s when Enbridge broke off negotiations and sued Michigan to reinstate the 2018 Snyder lame-duck legislative session sellout (found unconstitutional by AG Nessel). Why would any Michigander support indefinite pumping of Line 5 in our waters during an indefinite tunnel build? Enbridge also has no proposal for replacing the other 640 miles of line 5, crossing over 400 water bodies and Great Lakes tributaries, which has leaked 33 times spilling over a million gallons.

One last question - which no line 5 supporter has ever even tried to answer: Why should Michigan accept any risk to the Great Lakes to get Canadian oil to Sarnia?

The Straits Alliance is currently appealing permits granted by the Snyder administration approving anchor supports in the Straits to deal with lakebed washouts exceeding the 75 foot maximum allowed under the 1953 easement. The easement gave Enbridge rights to use the state-owned lakebed to support the line... 201 anchor supports will now hold Line 5 about 2-4 off the lakebed - perfect height to catch anchor flukes. 


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