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Is time running out on the Enbridge Straits pipeline 5?

One has to give credit to Al Monaco, president and CEO of Enbridge, Inc., the Alberta-based company that owns the twin oil pipelines, a.k.a. “Line 5”, that run through the Straits of Mackinac. He’s in for all 12 rounds of the championship fight to save his pipeline.

Monaco, his staff and marketing folks are no longer in hiding. They’re spending thousands of dollars in advertising to tell Michigan residents everything’s safe. They’ve joined local chambers of commerce, spoken to various service clubs, public gatherings, and dined with area business and community leaders to spread the word.

Four years ago, few knew of Enbridge’s Line 5, nor could they find a company representative for comment.

Few state officials would talk, except to say, “Contact the feds; they are in charge of oversight.”

One of the most vocal anti-pipeline alliances (“Oil and Water Don’t Mix”) has some two dozen organizations united to stop the pipeline. Enbridge has a tough case to make for pipeline safety when Enbridge’s Line 6B burst in 2010 and dumped 840,000 gallons of oil into a Kalamazoo River tributary ‒ the largest and one of most costly inland spills in the country.

Central Michigan University Political Science Professor Dr. James Hill told the Governor’s Oil Pipeline Task Force the status quo won’t work and worries that a spill in the straits could be significant and not quickly controlled.

The tide may even be changing even among Republicans, as new studies, evidence and reason give rise to the pipeline’s potential threat to the Great Lakes:

  • Former Republican Gov. William Milliken wrote in the Detroit Free Press for state leaders at all levels to act swiftly to prevent an economic and environmental disaster at the Straits of Mackinac.
  • After initially dodging the bullet before his re-election, Republican Governor Rick Snyder stepped up to the plate in creating a Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, as his task force recommended further study of the straits pipelines and greater transparency from Enbridge.
  • Republican Emmet County Commissioners just joined Cheboygan County asking Snyder to limit the usage of Enbridge’s twin oil pipelines until an independent analysis is completed.

The Detroit Free Press just reported that emergency responders say that under high wave conditions, crucial offshore spill containment response might have to be put off for hours or even days because of unsafe boating conditions.

In his newly released book, “Lights Out,” veteran journalist Ted Koppel warns about the vulnerability of America to a massive system failure or cyberattack that would cripple all we take for granted ‒ electricity, communications and transportation.

The question now is whether or not this will be enough to overcome the strong gas and oil lobbyists in Lansing and Washington and make the changes that reduce the potential threats to the Great Lakes.

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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