Important Update: Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Meeting: Resolution to shut down pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac

Update:

Just prior to the April 4th Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners meeting, Chairman Dale Shugars removed the resolution descibed below from the agenda. Six people spoke at the meeting in support of a resolution against Line 5. It appears the resolution will be introduced at the next board meeting which is on April 18th. Attendance showing support for the resolution is critical. See below for time and location. Kathy Schoen, 269-275-8676.

Enbridge Incorporated owns and operates two Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, one for light crude oil and one for natural gas. A resolution in support of shutting down line 5 down is to be presented to the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners for their support on April 4, 2017 by Commissioner Quinn. It would be good if there were a number of supporters there to speak or just be there for support. The resolution will subsequently be voted on at the next board meeting on April 18, 2017. Attendance at that meeting is also important.

Board meetings begin at 7 pm.  Meetings are held at the County Administration Building 201 W. Kalamazoo Ave in Kalamazoo, MI on the 2nd floor. Public comments are taken soon after the meeting begins.

This effort has been arranged and spearheaded by Kathy Schoen.

Please attend if you can and see below for “talking points” developed by Kathy.

Background:

  • Line 5 is a pair of 62-year-old pipelines owned by Enbridge that carry light crude oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.
  • An enormous amount of water flows through the Straits of Mackinac. At their peak volume, the Straits can move more than 10 times as much water as flows over the Niagara Falls. The currents in the Straits switch direction from east to west every few days.
  • According to a 2014 study by the University of Michigan, the Straits are the “worst possible place” for an oil spill in the Great Lakes because its shifting currents would move the oil back and forth between Lakes Michigan and Huron, spreading it far and wide.
  • The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world’s fresh, available surface water, and with this incredible resource comes a tremendous amount of responsibility to protect it.
  • The Great Lakes literally define Michigan, and as Michiganders, our lakes define our lives. We’re never more than 80 miles from one of the Great Lakes, or more than eight miles from a body of water.
  • The Great Lakes region is home to 10 percent of the U.S. population and 30 percent of Canada’s population.
  • Eighty-five percent of the natural gas liquids in Line 5 stay in the Upper Peninsula to use as propane for heating homes. Therefore, this energy source would not be impacted if Line 5 were shut down under the Straits.
  • In 2014, Governor Snyder set up the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force (MPPTF) to evaluate pipeline infrastructure and safety in Michigan and to make recommendations about what to do to protect Michigan communities and natural resources from Line 5’s aging infrastructure. The MPPTF made recommendations in July 2015, but failed to shut down Line 5 or provide a plan of action or timeline to implement the recommendations.
  • In September 2015 Governor Snyder set up the Michigan Pipeline Advisory Board to develop a timeline and plan for implementing the MPPTF’s recommendations, but we cannot wait for the recommendations of another advisory group – the risk of Line 5 failing is too great.
  • The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign is working with over 20 supporting organizations, community groups and businesses from around the state to shut down Line 5 and stop the flow of oil under the Great Lakes.

What’s at Risk:

  • The Great Lakes are a drinking water source for over 35 million people.
  • One in every five jobs in Michigan is linked to the high quality and quantity of fresh water in the Great Lakes. In 2009, the Great Lakes were linked to over 1.5 million jobs, with 35 percent of those jobs in Michigan.
  • Tourism is one of Michigan’s largest revenue sources and brings in billions of travelers’ dollars each year. Our agriculture, fisheries, shipping and industry depend on a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem.
  • Billions of dollars are spent each year in our state by tourists who come to explore Pure Michigan.
  • Many species of plants and animals, several of which are threatened or endangered, make the Great Lakes their home.
  • Oil flowing under the Great Lakes poses an imminent risk to our drinking water, our communities, our economy and our environment.

Enbridge Track Record:

  • Enbridge has a shaky track record that includes 1,174 reportable spills, leaks and releases of liquid hydrocarbon products like crude oil and natural gas liquids since 1999.
  • Since 1999, Enbridge spills and other failures have released 181,311 barrels or 7,615,062 gallons of liquid hydrocarbons into the environment.
  • The number of spills per year from Enbridge pipelines has increased steadily from an average of 50 spills per year from 1999 to 2004 to an average of over 90 spills per year from 2010 to 2014.
  • In 2014, Enbridge was found to be in violation of its 1953 easement for Line 5, which requires bracing every 75 feet along Line 5. Several braces along Line 5 were missing along the lake bottom and the pipeline was unsupported in the water.
  • In December 2014, Enbridge was responsible for a pinhole leak in Line 5 in a section north of the Straits of Mackinac.
  • Enbridge’s negligence caused one of the worst and most expensive oil spills in U.S. history when Line 6b ruptured near Kalamazoo in 2010. Almost one million gallons of tar sands oil leaked for 17 hours before Enbridge shut down the line. Thirty-eight miles of river were contaminated. Clean-up costs for the spill were roughly $1 billion.
  • When Line 6b ruptured near Kalamazoo it was due to a defect that Enbridge was aware of, but did nothing about.
  • Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board identified the following as causes of the catastrophic Line 6b spill: pervasive organizational failures at Enbridge, inadequate integrity management oversight and inadequate emergency response resources and procedures.
  • Based on Enbridge’s track record, we cannot trust this corporation to operate a pipeline safely in the Straits of Mackinac.

Problems:

  • Corrosion is the number one reason that pipelines fail. It’s not a question of if the pipeline will fail, but
  • The currents in the Straits are extremely forceful and unpredictable – imagine these currents moving the way water moves in a washing machine. If there were a spill from Line 5, oil would be churned up so much that it would be nearly impossible to clean up; oil would spread throughout Lakes Michigan and Huron for up to 85 miles, according to a 2014 University of Michigan study.
  • Line 5 was built before the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act was adopted so Enbridge didn’t have to obtain a permit and ensure that the pipeline wouldn’t pose a threat to the waters of the state or the public’s use of those waters.
  • When it was built, Line 5’s life expectancy was 40-50 years.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard Commandant testified before Congress in 2015 that the Coast Guard would be unable to respond effectively to an open water oil spill in the Great Lakes.
  • According to Steven Keck of the U.S. Coast Guard, if waves in the Straits are higher than three feet or if it is night/dark the Coast Guard would not put people on the water to recover oil.
  • According to state officials, if a spill occurred in the Straits there would be no visible cleanup activity in the first hours or perhaps even the first days after the oil spilled, as response crews and equipment arrive from other regions of the country.
  • Local emergency response teams would be the first to respond and the first put in harm’s way.
  • There is no real plan for how to recover oil in the event of a leak in winter when the lakes are covered with ice.
  • In September 2015 Enbridge conducted a spill response drill in the Straits and preliminary reports show that only 30 percent of the oil would be able to be recovered.
  • If a spill were to occur in the Lakes, Mackinac Island and St. Ignace would likely lose access to drinking water immediately, and ferry service to and from Mackinac Island would be stopped leaving islanders and tourists without drinking water or a way to get off the Island.

Solutions:

  • It is easier to protect Michigan’s waters and environment by preventing contamination or environmental degradation rather than attempting to clean up contamination and restore degraded environments and local communities after a spill.
  • The state could make Enbridge submit an application for Line 5 under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and subject it to that approval process.
  • Public Trust Doctrine and Act 10 of 1953 provide the state with the authority, when faced with uncertainty of devastating or serious harm, take action to prevent harm, rather than waiting for a catastrophe or harm to occur.
  • We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and make a real investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs.