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Opinion | Enbridge has proven it can’t be trusted with water and Line 5

Ketih Cooley

We can’t continue to ignore the disastrous consequences Michigan and our Great Lakes will face if Enbridge fails to keep its promises again and tragedy strikes. 

Enbridge, the Canadian energy conglomerate, owns Line 5 that carries gas under the Straits of Mackinac –  and its track record for operating its pipelines is shoddy.

They have averaged one hazardous liquid pipeline accident every 20 days since 2002, according to a 2018 report. In early August, an Enbridge pipeline in Kentucky exploded, sending flames 300 feet into the sky. Earlier this year, two Enbridge pipelines in Kentucky and Ohio exploded, killing one person, injuring others, destroying homes and damaging the environment. 

Michiganders have already suffered at the expense of Enbridge’s mistakes. In 2010, Enbridge’s Line 6B ruptured, spewing about 1 million gallons of sticky, crude oil into the Kalamazoo River, spilling onto river banks and contaminating nearby wetlands. The Kalamazoo River clean-up took five years and cost Enridge $1.21 billion to clean. It is the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history.

We must also not forget that in the past 50 years, Line 5 has experienced at least 29 ruptures,spills or malfunctions over the length of the 645-mile pipeline, releasing more than 1 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids into surrounding land and waterways, according to the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

Enbridge has played fast and loose with the truth – time and again the Canadian oil company misled the public as well as state and federal officials about the condition of the pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. They’ve denied there are any concerns about Line 5’s integrity, despite later having to acknowledge there were bare patches in the pipeline’s outer coating, missing anchor supports, and even new, widening gaps underneath the pipeline. Many of these problems are clear violations of the state easement that allows them to use the bottom of the Great Lakes.

In April 2018, an anchor from a tugboat struck the pipeline, denting it in several places and breaking nearby high voltage electrical cables that released 600 gallons of toxic fluids into the water. This past May, footage was finally released showing just how damaged the pipeline was from the incident. The anchor strike was a near catastrophe and should have served as a wake-up call to us all. Line 5 should be shut down immediately… and here’s why: 

The continued operation of Line 5 and the risk of a catastrophic rupture under the Straits isn’t worth the health of our residents, ecosystems or economy. According to researchers, a major oil spill in the Great Lakes could cause $45 billion in losses in gross national product in just 15 days during shipping season. That doesn’t even include the cost to our thriving tourism industry, which contributes more than $25 billion to Michigan’s economy each year. 

The degradation of our most treasured natural resources should not be the cost we pay for energy when there are many renewable, clean alternatives that would protect our residents and Great Lakes from pollution. 

Many people point to an Enbridge plan to build a tunnel under the Straits to replace Line 5, something that would take seven to 10 years to build, and in the meantime, Enbridge will continue pumping millions of gallons of oil and natural gas liquids through a 66-year-old, damaged pipeline. That would be a “double whammy” for Michiganders, as we are held hostage to the continued use of fossil fuels while keeping our Great Lakes at risk of a massive oil spill for nearly another decade. 

From explosions to oil spills, Enbridge’s record speaks for itself. Enbridge does not have Michigan’s best interests at heart and we cannot put our confidence in the hands of a company that has proven time and time again that it can’t be trusted.

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 Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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