Opinion | Enbridge is wrong, and Line 5 is wrong for Michigan

David Holtz lives in East Lansing and is communications coordinator for Oil & Water Don’t Mix

In his Jan. 8 guest commentary for Bridge, Enbridge’s director of operations for the Great Lakes, Mike Moeller, advises us that it’s time for Michigan to build for the future.   

We couldn’t agree more.  But where Enbridge thinks our future should include high-risk Enbridge oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, most Michigan residents have a much different idea. The future we envision does not include oil pipelines remaining on the Mackinac Straits lakebed, which is what Enbridge proposes. What Enbridge wants is for us to spend years - maybe a decade or more - waiting for Line 5 to rupture while they ask the state to ignore Michigan’s Constitution, environmental laws and their awful track record here so they can build and operate an oil tunnel Michigan doesn’t want or need.

The future Michigan should be focused on is one that prioritizes protecting the Great Lakes and provides real energy security that doesn’t depend on risky pipelines and fossil fuels that contribute to a warming planet.   

Enbridge makes much about the fact that Line 5 transports liquefied natural gas that is processed into propane that heats homes in parts of the UP. But if Line 5 were shut down and propane were transported through other means studies show the cost would increase about 5 cents per gallon, well within normal market range. And what Enbridge doesn’t mention – ever - is that the UP is relying on a risky, 65-year-old Enbridge pipeline that’s leaked at least 33 times and there’s no plan in place if that pipeline ruptures and can no longer transport fuels.

Michigan’s energy and infrastructure future should be transformative, robust and meet the real needs of its people. Investing in clean energy, broadband Internet and roads, bridges and other infrastructure should be priorities for our new governor and other Michigan leaders. Debating whether Michigan should build an oil tunnel for a Canadian multinational corporation is yesterday’s story.  Today’s focus should be on Michigan’s future as the Great Lakes State.

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Terri Wilkerson
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 9:14am

Thank you for publishing David Holtz's perspective which puts the best interests of the Great Lakes and Michigan before the interest of the Canadian corporation, Enbridge!

I hope that in the future, Bridge will better follow its mission as it selects the opinions it highlights so that we hear from those that focus on Michigan's long term interest like David Holtz, and NOT from foreign corporations promoting clear self interest - to the detriment of Michigan. For reference, Bridge states that its mission is "to inform Michigan citizens through fact-based, nonpartisan journalism that identifies critical issues and HELPS CITIZENS NAVIGATE THE CHALLENGES of our civic life".

William Bailey
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:20am

This comment misses to point; we are all concerned about water and concerned about protecting it; focuses on its Canadian formations betrays the real thrust and reflect no scientific knowledge but just prejudice. Ask the scientific and environmental community for an informed opinion.

And ask the residents of the UP if they want to find a replacement for the propane gas they use for heating, all of which is produced by Enbridge!

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:41am

The only thing Enbridge cares about is profit. Canada is beating the hell out of native American women and children to force another foul pipeline through tribal homes. If the UP has to pay 5 cents more, too bad. This culture of everyone, particularly corporations and billionaires, wanting a free ride at the expense of our children and the public welfare has to end. Time to cut defense by half (their accounting is so bad they won't even know it is gone) raise taxes on Wall Street and the top 1% and invest in a green New Deal for our planet and kids. A 70% marginal tax rate and increased taxes on corporations would go a long way towards helping the UP get cheaper energy and a better future.

Phil Bellfy
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:40am

I have to point out one glaring error in this comment (actually, two): First, Enbridge does not "produce" the propane it ships through Line 5; it's merely the shipper of said propane, and if Enbridge didn't ship that propane, some other free-enterprise-market-based company would. Second big (and related) problem: I heat my house with propane, and I asked my local supplier if shutting down Line 5 would affect his ability to fill my tank. His reply --not in the least!! Shutting down Line 5 would have NO effect on availability of propane for UP residents.

Alex Sagady
Tue, 01/22/2019 - 6:01pm

>>>>Enbridge does not "produce" the propane it ships through Line 5; it's merely the shipper of said propane, and if Enbridge didn't ship that propane,

This comment is false. Enbridge ships natural gas liquids, a mixture that contains propane, and not propane itself.
Natural gas liquids must be processed through distillation to produce commercial propane, and the remaining
components of NGLs must be trans-shipped from the location where distillation occurs.

>>>> Shutting down Line 5 would have NO effect on availability of propane for UP residents.
That claim doesn't comport with published statements by UP propane marketers and distributors.

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:47am

Terri, are you suggesting that media like Bridge shouldn't ever print any opinions from any regulated company, or anyone who has a "clear self interest?" Or that Bridge's editors should decide who is truly"focusing on Michigan's long term interest?"

I shudder to think of what our "democratic" and "free press" would look like under such a standard.

Robert Bosch
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 9:22am

Enbridge is not talking new pipelines only replacement of the section under the Straits. The ten years is to finish the tunnel not waiting for it to rupture. Investing in clean energy should be our goal but petroleum products will continue to be needed for at least the next fifty years. Improving our infrastructure should be the first priority of our state government but this discussion about Line 5. Numerous pipelines presently traverse the Lower Peninsula. Will they all be replaced? Line 5 will be in a tunnel not laying on the lake bed.

leonard page
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:13am

The elephant in the room is that the old pipelines continue to pump 23 million gallons a day thru the Straits for the projected 10 year period of the build- longer if there are permitting delays on the tunnel project. when natural gas liquids (propane) are being pumped - 98% by volume goes to Sarnia. when crude oil is being pumped - 95% goes to Sarnia. why should Michigan be the high-risk shortcut getting Canadian oil to Ontario for the Canadian market or export? two studies show that shutting down line 5 would have an impact of only pennies a gallon on gasoline and propane prices in Michigan. Pipelines are the best way to move oil, but the placement of a pipeline anywhere near or in the great lakes is just insane. All the inspections and tests of the twin pipelines will not prevent the next anchor drag--now even more dangerous given the use of 201 anchor screw supports holding the twin lines two to four feet off the lakebed. the lame-duck Snyder /Enbridge tunnel agreements commit the state to letting the twin pipelines run by amending the 1953 Easement. past violations of that easement are waived; the easement's requirement to hold harmless and indemnify all persons damaged by an oil spill is waived.

Dr Nick
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 6:35pm

Bob...your all wrong on this I'm afraid. This pipeline has to go. Enbridge can not be trusted at all!!!!

Robert Bosch
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 9:25pm

I was taught not to bring up a problem unless I could also suggest a solution. Just saying “shut down Line 5” is not a solution but just wishful thinking. Realistically line 5 is not going to be suddenly shut down without an alternative plan. Moving the fuels by train or truck is not feasible. Building a replacement pipeline through the length the of Wisconsin, portions of Illinois and Indiana and across Michigan will take more time than constructing a tunnel under the Straits , particularly when there will be numerous delays when land owners suddenly develop a “nimby” mentality.

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 10:03am

Questions for David, "Debating whether Michigan should build an oil tunnel for a Canadian multinational corporation is yesterday’s story." What is this statement based upon, the "Michigan should build" part? What is the total amount and number of occurrences of oil products being spilled and carbon impact to be expected if the same products were trucked and rail transported instead of piped? Since your entire public position is based on a fear of a pipeline rupture, what is the probability of a rupture in this section of line in the next ten years? Yes this can be calculated. Being pro-science and opposed to making spurious claims, undoubtedly you have done this? Please supply links.

David Holtz
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 12:11pm

Matt, I'm afraid you raise a straw man when you ask about the impact of transporting Line 5 oil by truck and rail instead of pipelines. More than 90% of the oil transported through Line 5 originates in Canada and ends up at a refinery in Sarnia, Ontario. Michigan is just being used as a shortcut for Enbridge. There is no way to actually predict the precise moment when Line 5 will rupture. It's metal and corrodes. It has seams and weld points that are subject to corrosion, which has already resulted in a Line 5 rupture near the Saginaw Bay area. When Enbridge's much newer former Line 6B ruptured along the Kalamazoo River in 2010 Enbridge was cited by federal regulators for ignoring problems with the pipeline, problems that resulted in the largest inland oil spill in U.S. .history. Is that a risk Michigan should be taking with the Great Lakes for oil we don't need?

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 12:50pm

No David you must not understand the meaning of a straw man. If this pipeline were to close, it is a reasonable assumption that the petrol would be transported via alternative means, tanker trucks and rail, for a foreseeable future. What is the risk and carbon foot print, environmental costs of these methods vs. existing pipeline?? And again experts in metallurgy and pipelines can look at a given pipeline and the given conditions and give us a reasonable estimation of the likelihood of rupture over a relatively short ten years. Being scientific ... are you saying you haven't gotten these numbers? And again again you said the State of Michigan was paying for this pipeline, how did you get to that statement? Facts?

Susan Lenfestey
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 2:35pm

This is a clear concise piece from David Holtz. Let's skip the straw men (pipes vs trucks) and go to the elephant in the room. A business-oriented Republican I spoke with recently, the CEO of a very large energy company, told me that fossil fuel is on the way out. The technology and economics of renewables are so strong, and getting stronger, that the market is going to shift rapidly away from oil and other fossil fuels. How rapidly? Not overnight, but probably in less than 50 years. But the shift is inevitable. He knew about Line 5, and he thinks that it's highly unlikely that Enbridge will ever invest in a tunnel. He said that people in the energy biz world see this as a stalling maneuver by Enbridge to keep the oil flowing as long as possible due to the huge profit they're raking in on the line. So, they'll continue to reap the benefits as long as possible and leave the risk to us, especially those who live near the Straits, and whose livelihoods depend on that pure Michigan water.

Dr Nick
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 6:14pm

Thanks Susan for making some sense out of all of this chaos about the line 5!

Michigan Observer
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 10:40pm

Ms. Lenfestey says, "The technology and economics of renewables are so strong, and getting stronger, that the market is going to shift rapidly away from oil and other fossil fuels. " Really? Then how does she explain a million German households doing without electricity because they can't afford it? When Germany foolishly closed down all its nuclear plants and relied on wind and solar, they found it sharply increased the cost of their electricity. The cost of electricity in France, which has a lot of nuclear produced electricity is 55% of the cost of Germany's renewable electricity. And was she aware that Germany is cutting down a forest in order to open a coal mine?

Phil Bellfy
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:49am

Totally unreasonable assumption!! No, the oil would not be moved by rail and/or tanker for the simple "reason" that the number of rail-tankers and trucks to move that amount of oil do not exist. The small amount of oil that is pumped through Line 5 on its way to the Marathon refinery in Detroit could just as easily be shipped via (the re-built) Line 6b. And everyone should keep in mind that when Line 6b popped, and was out of commission for months (years?), "the industry" found other pipelines to get that crude to the Marathon refinery. Oh, and by the way, the rupture of Line 6b DID NOT result in any increased costs of gasoline to the consumer anywhere in the Midwest.

leonard page
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 2:19pm

risk is defined as probability times potential harm. that makes line 5 a high risk project . benefits to michigan are very minor, not our job to help canada transport alberta oil to east coast for sale in europe. (british columbia doesn't want a pipeline to the pacific coast) there have been over 30 line 5 spills totaling over a million gallons of release. anchor drag o n april 1 put gouges and dents in line 5. will there be another drag in the next decade??

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 9:46am

Exactly why we should support a tunnel! It is the only sure way to remove the oil pipelines from the bed of the Lake. Lawsuits and permitting delays as you note will make this even longer. What we all can do is support the tunnel project and demand that the permitting be fast tracked. Write your legislator. All of this oil is not from Canada and to Canada. Some of it is from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana and some of it is delivered in Marysville, Michigan to regional refineries in Detroit and Toledo, OH. Some also gets delivered in Sarnia, but much of that fuels our regional economy. If pipeline was shut down, wouldn't it be safe to assume that the Sarnia refineries would then get oil from other sources that the US Midwest refineries currently get oil from due to Sarnia's proximity to US? This will drive up US costs, simple supply and demand arguments. Please use facts.

Peter Eckstein
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 10:41am

My understanding is that, with very few exceptions, this is a pipeline from one part of Canada to another, which just uses Michigan as a conduit. No more bullroar from Enbridge, please, about how vital it is to Michigan's economy.

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 12:34pm

Amen to that!

John Simaz
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 3:11pm

"Oil And Water Don't Mix". I couldn't agree more. Thats why the proposed tunnel should be supported by the people of Michigan. This is a privately funded investment of over $500 million designed to make a safe pipeline even safer. At least 100ft below the bottom of the lake, encased in concrete, the possibility of any contact with shipping vessels will be eliminated.
As Michigan's energy needs grow, we need to upgrade our infrastructure and develop new sources, the tunnel will do both. The tunnel will also provide upgrades for communications such as broadband that will strengthen our ties between the upper and lower peninsulas, while providing our fellow Michigan residents the energy they need.

Phil Bellfy
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:57am

Sorry, John, you are just plain wrong --the MBA already has broadband cables strung under the Bridge, and, in case you missed it, the "new and improved" Agreement assures that the MBA would be reimbursed for any loss of revenue if the cable companies (foolishly, in my opinion) would agree to move their cables from their present location to the "Strunnel." It's my understanding that the electric transmission companies will not wait ten or more years to replace the cables cut by the anchor strike. They will upgrade their Straits' infrastructure as soon as they can secure the needed permits (this comes from Cloverland Elec. Coop. officials). They have pretty much stated they're not interested in the "Strunnel."

Jim Fuscaldo
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 3:52pm

It seems to me that the anti-Enbridge Pipeline proselytizers should provide a clear and concise definition of "clean energy". In addition, they should provide a detailed economic analysis of how many wind turbines and solar panels it would require to provide the necessary BTU's directly, and mega watts indirectly, to replace the equivalent BTU's annually flowing through the Enbridge pipeline. Once that calculation is completed, they need to identify where said wind turbines and solar panels (clean energy alternatives?) should be located in Michigan, and how many will be needed in order to replace the BTU's and mega watts provided, directly or indirectly, via the Enbridge pipeline. In addition the analysis will need to supply what type of energy will be used as back up when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine in Michigan and how it will be supplied. Clean energy "bloviation" has consequences. It requires meaningful substantiation not hyperbole based on theory or political and unsubstantiated environmental rhetoric based on fear. Facts, science and economics are stubborn things for the anti Enbridge pipeline bloviators. As a side bar issue consider this. How many of the anti - Enbridge bloviators live off the grid? Just asking.

Vince Caruso
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 6:15pm

Thank you David Holtz! Spot On.
As the Saudi Araba of FRESH WATER in the WORLD, we have an obligation and, yes a self-interest, to protect this wonderful RESOURCE. It is worth more than OIL. Short term gains for long term losses is not how you protect the future of our great state and its God Given Resources.
For god's sake, this is just a short cut from Canada to Canada with Michigan taking all the risk.

Alex Sagady
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 7:00pm

David Holtz>>> Enbridge makes much about the fact that Line 5 transports liquefied natural gas....

Nope. Enbridge has never said it transports liquefied natural gas (LNG) and
Line 5 has never transported liquefied natural gas which is a cryogenic substance that must be kept below -270 deg F and is never transported in long distance hazardous liquids pipelines.

David Holtz>>>> liquefied natural gas that is processed into propane that heats homes in parts of the UP.

Nope. Enbridge does not do that. Propane is not a product processed from "liquefied natural gas." Natural gas is mostly methane and propane cannot be "processed" from methane without catalytic chemical reforming, and no such process is operated at Rapid River, MI.

David Holtz>>>The future we envision does not include oil pipelines remaining on the Mackinac Straits lakebed, which is what Enbridge proposes.

Nope. that is not what Enbridge proposes.

Enbridge is proposing construction of a reinforced concrete-lined tunnel 100 feet under the bottom of the Mackinac Strait where a re-routing the Mackinac Strait Line 5 twin segments would instead run in a single 30 inch pipeline with nearly 1 inch thick walls like the present twin pipelines have on the bottom of the Straits which would be subsequently abandoned.

Geoffrey Owen
Wed, 01/16/2019 - 10:51pm

As a property owner in Presque Isle County I agree that we do not need a 63 year old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinaw. Line 5 poses an environmental risk disproportionate to the profits of Enbridge and is not in the interest of the people of Michigan.

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:19am

I don't understand. Why don't we need it? It has been providing us benefits for 65 years and to think all of a sudden there are in-place alternatives that won't increase costs or compromise safety is absurd. Think about impacts to our roads, our railways, oil tankers back on the Great Lakes?, new pipelines that will need to be built, taxes that they pay to rural counties, etc. If upstream States (like Wisconsin) took this same approach where would Michigan be? Energy poor with even higher taxes. Michigan is unique in location as it is essentially two peninsulas jutting out into the Great Lakes. Without making the entire state a State Park and allowing no development, we need safe pipelines and the energy they provide. Plus not so sure a $500 million commitment to replace a segment of pipeline that currently meets all safety standards of their federal regulator (Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration _PHMSA) is such a great deal for Enbridge? Imagine if the State said your company needs to spend $500 million to reduce risk to keep operating even though your federal regulatory agency agrees you are meeting all federal standards? Plus you are making a product that each and every one of us uses every since moment in our lives. Enbridge stepped up. Build the Tunnel!

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 11:12pm

Number 1. Regardless of anyone's position, as of the last judicial and independent reviews, Line 5 cannot be shut down by the state, period. Until such a time as it is decided differently by the courts, which it appears it will be headed if Whitmer pursues it, that is the way it is. As far as renewable sources, many places around the state have rejected wind farms so the companies take the townships to court in hopes of forcing them to bend to their will, usually to the point of going bankrupt. Reason being is they make a ton of money due to the 70% direct subsidy from the government to construct them. Additionally, it takes quite a bit of fossil fuels to build the components. Not a great way to build public support. Not to mention they are engineered to be replaced after 10 years. Solar is not the best option for Michigan either as the lack of enough sun makes the option less than optimal. Last year for a two week period, the Board of Water and Light arrays produced less than 5 watts at any given time. Could the U.P. survive without the pipeline, probably. However, during the winter of 2014-2015, several places ran out as demand was greater than Line 5 could supply and the backup source became unavailable. Modifying the Rapid River facility to accept rail deliveries would take some investment as in the heating months, they would need to accommodate some 25 rail cars a week, based on average yearly usage variables, on a line that doesn't have daily rail traffic. I would suspect the Canadian Government will weigh in on any court case also. It isn't just one refinery dependent on Line 5, there are a total of 10 refineries and chemical companies dependent on it for their raw materials to manufacture their products. Line 6B from Chicago has no spare capacity as it is for any additional product to make up for Line 5 being shut down. As well the northern states are pretty dependent on Canadian crude oil.