Opinion | A defense of Enbridge, its environmental record and Line 5

Brad Shamla is vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge.

As another advocate for a clean energy future, Keith Cooley in his Aug. 30 opinion piece in Bridge clearly shares Enbridge’s commitment to the environment.  

Enbridge welcomes the opportunity to meet with Mr. Cooley. The meeting would offer a beneficial exchange of factual information regarding how Enbridge’s pipeline safety and environmental safeguards are intrinsic to the healthy energy future that Mr. Cooley and Enbridge envision.  

Enbridge is one of the largest renewable energy companies in North America. Since our initial investment in a wind farm in 2002, we've committed more than $6 billion in capital to renewable energy and power transmission projects either in operation or under construction.

And it is important to note that natural gas plays an extremely important role in lowering greenhouse gases. The U.S. has made strides in reducing greenhouse gasses while increasing natural gas usage and Enbridge plays an important role in this effort. Today, we move approximately 20 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States and we own the second-largest gas utility in North America. 

Enbridge also is the largest pipeline operator in the United States, transporting 25 percent of the crude oil produced in North America. Area refineries process the crude oil that is used in the manufacture of thousands of products – from automotive parts to clothing to medicines to mobile phones – as well as the transportation fuels on which Michigan residents rely.

Much like the mission of Mr. Cooley’s company to use cutting-edge technology to address environmental issues, Enbridge also relies on numerous technologies to help ensure the ongoing safe, environmentally sound operation of its energy network. This network includes the oil pipeline system of which Line 5 is a vital part. 

Over the last decade, we’ve transported more than 24.6 billion barrels of oil, with a safe delivery record of 99.99971 percent. Most of the releases that occurred involved less than a single barrel and were contained within Enbridge facilities and readily recovered without environmental impacts.   

And we are continuously striving to improve our safety and reliability performance. Last year, we transported 3.9 billion barrels of oil, the highest volume in our 70-year history. We also established a new safe delivery record system wide. To put it in perspective, the total volume released from the Enbridge liquids pipelines system last year was less than one-third of one rail car. While that performance is noteworthy, we’re committed to continuing to drive to our goal of zero incidents.

As Mr. Cooley can appreciate, leaders are responsible for success, which comes first by setting an example. Residents and state leaders have voiced concerns; Enbridge is listening, responsively leading with constructive actions.

Most recently, Enbridge committed to investing $500 million to construct a tunnel 100 feet below the Straits of Mackinac. The tunnel will house a new Line 5 securely inside it, removing it from the waters of the Great Lakes as quickly as possible.

Supported by more than half of Michigan residents, the tunnel is the most pragmatic solution to continuing to protect the Great Lakes and delivering fuels safely and efficiently while creating long-lasting economic and infrastructure value for the region. Enbridge anticipates beginning construction as early as 2021, with a goal of completing the tunnel and installing a new Line 5 section inside it by 2024. 

History is a valuable teacher and has helped shape the responsive company Enbridge is today; fully committed to safety, investing in the community and striving for excellence at all levels. This includes doing what is best to preserve Michigan’s natural resources, supporting the economy and providing safely the energy on which families and businesses rely every day.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Tue, 09/17/2019 - 7:39am

Shamla's chutzpah is breathtaking. When discussing Enbridge's safety record, he utterly ignores the fact that Enbridge was responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill, the second-largest inland spill in American history. Enbridge failed to detect it until 18 hours after it occurred, and oil had contaminated a 25-mile stretch of the river. Yet Shamla acts as if it never happened, nor the others for which Enbridge is responsible: Alberta, 2012; North Dakota, 2011; Oklahoma, 2010, etc.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:17am

No fooling!

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:59am

And did ot the right wing controlled MI Courts ruel that Enbridge was not responsable to clean up their mess and the People of MI had to pay fro???

Jeffrey Lygon
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 8:54am

Ok, assuming this guy actually reads the responses here, I'll take my valuable time to comment. I've been following this company for years, and to my way of thinking, and if I were governor when Snyder was in office, I would have booted this firm from the state permanently after the Kalamazoo River debacle...which is STILL unmitigated as we speak. That said, what corporations fail to understand, is that they exist at the pleasure of our civil, secular law. And are subordinate to, and subject to regulation and removal, if the people deem it so. Sadly in recent decades, our civil secular law has been corrupted by Republicans who have changed the rules to suit their own warped and prostrated political agenda....which includes removing regulation and conditions on their chief means of support, the corporations. Enbridge is one of those corporations. In Southfield we fought, and lost a fight to keep oil drilling out our residential neighborhoods. Republicans, with funding from Enbridge, WestBay Corporation and other oil and gas interests, lobbied the Republican controlled statehouse and Republican governor to change the distance standard derricks and refineries could be built near existing homes. Local laws were swept aside by the right wing run court system, and now they have won their precedent setting case....there is literally NO PLACE in Michigan where an oil derrick, refinery, or storage facility can't be built. This experimental well was drilled after clear cutting two acres of old growth trees on private church owned property, with which the oil company partnered, all in a piece of street theatre designed to set this new precedent. No oil was found, only natural gas, which was burned off on a flare which could be seen, and smelled for a mile in all directions IN A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD. This is madness....and even after a total rejection by the community, local leaders, state and federal representatives in this district, the right wing courts still sided with the corporate. Our local forbidding of this kind of use of property meant zero.....and you think for some magical reason we'd listen to ONE WORD from a corporate shill? Please. Never. And in fact, it only galvanized us to fight harder and longer against the abject failure of Republicanism which owns this failure. As far as Enbridge is concerned, they should be lucky they're still allowed to do business in Michigan. If it were up to me, and thousands more, they'd have had their business seized after the Kalamazoo River destruction, and sold off to another operator that would abide by rules and regulations sane people put in place to keep this state from becoming another example of failed, late stage capitalism.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:19am

Thank you for your informed and insightful comment! The article itself is offensive in its avoidance of the facts.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 2:05pm

Thank for your great detailed response. With facts.
Small comment: please use paragraphs, they help the people who can still read to better comprehend things.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 8:56am

Kalamazoo River anyone?

leonard page
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:05am

there is no agreement between the state and enbridge which "commits" enbridge to a having a tunnel built by any specific date. Last year's agreement created extensions for tech problems and failure to obtains proper state and federal permits. In august 2017, enbridge noted that there would be "significant delays" for permitting. so we are only promised an indefinite tunnel project and thus indefinite pumping of the twin pipelines in our waters. ready for the next anchor drag?

Jeffrey Insko
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 10:05am

And let's be honest: the tunnel is a chimera in the first place. It's never going to be built. The 2021-2024 timeline is ludicrous (Enbridge said the replacement of Line 6B would take 4 months; it took 4 years). With lawsuits, court proceedings, environmental reviews, challenges to those environmental reviews, they'd be lucky to get permits by 2024. Just look at the Line 3 situation in Minnesota, where they're 5 years in and still don't have full approval for the project. So even if Enbridge finally did secure all the necessary permits, they'll still face more lawsuits, weather delays, construction snafus, and who knows what other delays and disruption during construction. By that time, climate effects are going to be impossible for anyone to ignore. Enbridge knows all of this. They're playing Michiganders for fools to keep the current line running for as long as state leaders are gullible enough to allow it.

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 12:27pm

Jeffrey, I think everyone agrees that the current pipeline as is needs a solution. While I'm certainly not a fan of Enbridge their plan to replace that section is a safe and reasonable solution. You state that it will never be built due to lawsuits, court proceedings, environmental reviews ( challenges to the reviews). These obstructions will only prolong the current section and all it's risks to remain being used. Groups that actually care for our Lakes should support the project to get it done as soon as possible and prevent any spill potential. Their efforts to block the tunnel is only creating more potential for an accident to occur with disastrous consequences. It seems to me that their main goal is to shut the line down rather than protect our Great Lakes.

leonard page
Wed, 09/18/2019 - 1:30pm

terry: the problem is a worst case spill of 2.5 million gallon spill in the great lakes from the 66 year old pipeline. (anchor drag or rupture in the next storm) mich is not obligated to be a permanent shortcut to get western canada oil to sarnia. whitmer told enbridge in june, 2019 - promise to get the old pipes by june 2021 and we can talk about a tunnel. no said enbridge the old lines have to keep running as long as we appear to be working on a tunnel 5 , 7 or 10 years or longer. Enbridge then ran to court to enforce the snyder sellout of pa 359 found unconstitutional by AG Nessel. i'm with whitmer run line 5 100 miles north of superior if you want. putting an oil pipeline in the great lakes is criminally stupid.

Concerned Citizen
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:23am

Enbridge is concerned only when the public eye is on them, once the media blitz clears up they go about their merry way to destroy more waterways. They will destroy Michigan just like they did in the 307 other spills they have had all over the country. And if Enbridge is reading this - news flash, natural gas is not renewable energy. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/dangerous-pipelines/

leonard page
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:31am

assume good intentions by enbridge. there are still no proposal to replace the other 640 miles of Line 5--all running canadian oil in the great lakes basin. 23 million gallons a day with almost 95% going to sarnia. when running natural gas liquids there is always a risk of explosion along the entire line. as long as the twin piplelines run in the waters of the straits, they are subject to the next anchor drag. in short--enbridge cannot guarantee safety. why then should we take any risk of any kind to our great lakes to get western canadian oil to sarnia?

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:50am

Secondary containment only makes sense. I actually suggested this several years ago to a storage tank division inspector from the state, although my thoughts were to run the pipeline, electric, fiberoptic cable, etc., and charge them all usage fees. Still, GMTA and I totally agree the tunnel is a reasonable solution.

leonard page
Wed, 09/18/2019 - 1:35pm

faith: fine just shut the hazardous twin pipelines pumping canadian oil to sarnia thru the waters of the straits down until the tunnel is completed.

David Frye
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:51am

This oil-soaked piece of pablum is the definition of greenwashing. Our oil addiction is killing us and the planet, and Enbridge is the dealer. Shut down Line 5. Period.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:57am

Did not Enbridge have a VERY big oil spill in west MI and the People of MI had to pay to clean up their mess????

Kathi Geukes
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 10:13am

Nice try bud....we'd rather have uncontaminated water than Line 5! I Don't want to swim in oil tainted goo...I don't want the fish to die.....I love the Lakes as they are. Keep your pipeline out of our Lake!!! It's time to shut it down!!!!

Edward Timm, PhD, PE
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 10:35am

Enbridge has had five of its major gas transmission lines blow up in the last eleven months. One person was killed, over a dozen were injured and gas prices spiked causing significant economic damage. If this is the safety record Mr. Shamla wants to put forward, I doubt if Keith Cooley will be impressed. Enbridge's supposed great safety record is fake news and one could conclude they have lost control of their pipeline integrity management system. They prefer to spend heavily on PR rather then investing in replacing their rusty vintage pipes, an all too common approach by modern corporations.

Jonah 4
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 10:46am

This is typical Enbridge propaganda about how safe the company operates while ignoring the Kalamazoo River pollution and other major spills they have had.

I would really like for the Attorney General to investigate what Enbridge promised the Snyder administration for the quick, undercover deal that was made for the tunnel under the Straits. There continues to be a terrible odor from that deal.

Gerry Niedermaier
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 11:05am

Pure, unadulterated, horse pucky.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 11:12am

The line in the Straights is on borrowed time. The anchor damage last year was the clincher. It should never have been built and It needs to be shut down.

Build the tunnel or not, it's past time to shut down the portion of Line 5 in the Straights.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 12:29pm

Brad, Brad, Brad,
Your screed insults the intelligence and memory of Bridge readers.
Speaking of bridges aren’t you the guy who tried to sell the one in Brooklyn?
TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK, the longer you delay shutting 5 down the more likely Entropy will catch up and cause a catastrophe .As I mentioned earlier your proposed concrete condom , if ever built is not the answer.

Jannan J. Cornstalk
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 12:54pm

Enbridge Line 5 just had a leak over in Bad River Wisconsin. Surely you people can’t be as dumb as a box of rocks and know Kalamazoo still is not totally cleaned up! Line 5 goes through many, many inland tributaries and other ecological vulnerable areas. The tunnel will only protect Enbridge, a Canadian energy transportation company from being accountable to the tribes and the citizens of Michigan. The other hundreds of miles of pipeline are still a threat to our way of life and the life of those living things which we share this state with. Take the blinders off and open your eyes to the profits over people scam!! Why is the State of Michigan responsible for transporting fuel for a Canadian company that goes from Canada to Canada? We are being USED as their economic shortcut and putting ALL of us at risk! Wake up numb skulls!!

james r buchli
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 12:56pm

Let the oil industry go . I don't know where you people against this get your info. If so worried about gas and oil then maybe throw your phones ,clothes ,cars ,bikes and just live in your cave naked hunting living off plants

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 2:07pm

Thank you 'james' for your informative, fact filled, insightful comment.
We all know so much more thanks to your comment.

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 2:14pm

Please restate that so it makes sense?

Gary Lea
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 2:03pm

I love you five commenters, but not the author of this article. I've never been one to realize any benefits of hydrocarbon slurries and gasses over hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind and the kind of safe nuclear electric generation that will be developed. We gave up on whaling long before we ran out of whales - it should now be the same thing for subterranean goo. I'll not have another country tracking grime through my home anymore.

Charlotte Morton
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 4:35pm

Not sure where nearly 1/2 of MI wants the new pipeline. I don't think so. And who is really getting this fuel. Canada?? No on this is a no brainer.

Mike H.
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 7:13pm

I have yet to hear about why the Enbridge gas transmission pipeline blew up in BC last fall, and, why it took so long to fix.

Paul Jordan
Tue, 09/17/2019 - 8:55pm

Enbridge should have to post a multi-billion dollar cash bond against damages caused by leaks by its pipelines. It is up to government to ensure that Enbridge experiences the entire costs of any damages to the public and the environment.

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 5:47pm

Ha, great question. If Enbridge is so careful, so reliable then the bond industry would be happy to bond them.
They aren't. They know Enbridge doesn't value safety, etc. at all and that the risks can't be even calculated.
That should say it all but our bribe, er, 'campaign contribution' fed legislators just look the other way and take the money They know they
can hit us all up to pay for the messes.

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 8:02am

Face it Brad your company's mere existence is an affront to people in the camp of the typical Bridge reader you see here . The entire developed world's petroleum industry must be seized, destroyed and stomped out of existence in penance for sins the western world has committed. These individual gestures of environmental righteousness are a fact of life in the current world that nothing will change .... except when it's time for them to use their own cars or step onto airplanes.

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 9:19am

Enbridge just had a release of 1200 barrels at their tank farm in Cushing, OK. Their "safety" record isn't the issue. The issue is the threat their aging pipeline poses to the Great Lakes and our tourism economy, our fisheries, our drinking water and our environment. Low probability-high consequence events like an oil spill need to be planned for and prevented...by not placing pipelines where the can do the most damage...like in our Great Lakes. Send it by rail, send it by truck, send it through pipelines on land...until we move to a renewable energy economy that has to be the reality of fossil fuel transport. Just don't send it under or through our water.

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 9:41am

"Supported by more than half of Michigan residents, the tunnel is ..."

Citation needed.

Julie Ortiz
Sun, 09/22/2019 - 9:24am

Enbridge has a track record that speaks for itself right here in Michigan. We experienced one of the worst spills in the nation right in Kalamazoo at the hands of Enbridge. Also, as Michigander that pays attention to elections, I would like to point out that Enbridge gave money to our Mi Chamber of Commerce that was used to fund the republican opposition to proposal 2 - The proposal meant to do away with partisan gerrymandering in Michigan, which ultimately circumvented voters rights in this state for the last 8 years. Corporate Interference by Enbridge in our elections, especially being a foreign company, is against the best interest of our state and should not be allowed. Even if their track record was a good one, I don’t think they should be allowed to do business here since they were trying to circumvent the voters rights in Michigan in the last election.

John Chastain
Fri, 11/01/2019 - 12:44pm

So this quote comes from the opinion piece above " Over the last decade, we’ve transported more than 24.6 billion barrels of oil, with a safe delivery record of 99.99971 percent. Most of the releases that occurred involved less than a single barrel and were contained within Enbridge facilities and readily recovered without environmental impacts" Now as a reality check on the propaganda piece by Brad Shamla vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge we have the July 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill. This spill from a pipeline operated by Enbridge (Line 6B) burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. A 6-foot break in the pipeline resulted in one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history. Though alarms sounded in Enbridge's Edmonton headquarters at the time of the rupture, it was eighteen hours before a Michigan utilities employee reported oil spilling and the pipeline company learned of the spill. Meanwhile, pipeline operators had thought the alarms were possibly caused by a bubble in the pipeline and, while for some time it was shut down, they also increased pressure for periods of hours to try to clear the possible blockage, spilling more oil. The cleanup expense by summer 2012 had totaled $765 million. As of November 2014, the total had risen to $1.21 billion, with an estimated $219 million in costs yet to be paid. So you trust Enbridge to do that right thing & protect the environmental integrity of the largest supply of fresh water in the United States and the associated economic welfare of 8 states and 2 Canadian province's. It's a fools bet at best & I for one won't be taking it. The history of environmental degradation caused by the fossil fuel industry is well known & it is full of false promises and broken commitments. This isn't any different. Even now years after the Gulf spill there are ongoing spills that are not being addressed and oil companies shirking responsibility. This entire "opinion" piece is disingenuous and deceptive nonsense by a man paid to spin & deceive. Trust? not on a cold day in .........