Quantcast

Enbridge's Great Lakes Pipeline Has Spilled 1 Million Gallons Since 1968

Enbridge Energy Partners' aging Line 5 pipeline, which runs through the heart of the Great Lakes, has spilled more than 1 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids in at least 29 incidents since 1968, according to data from the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration obtained by the National Wildlife Federation.

Built in 1953, the 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline carries petroleum to eastern Canada via the Great Lakes states. As it travels under the Straits of Mackinac, a narrow waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Line 5 splits into twin 20-inch-diameter, parallel pipelines.

Line 5 opponents fear that a spill in the Great Lakes, which contains 21 percent of the world's surface fresh water, would be an ecological disaster. Notably, the straits' strong currents reverse direction every few days and a spill would quickly contaminate shoreline communities miles away.

Enbridge is behind a number of major spills, most notoriously in 2010 when an Enbridge line spilled more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan—creating the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

"We have a pipeline system with a history of problems running through our country's largest source of surface freshwater, and it happens to be operated by the company responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills in North America," said Mike Shriberg, executive director for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.

"This pipeline system places the Great Lakes and many local communities at an unacceptable risk. The state of Michigan needs to find an alternative to this risky pipeline to protect our drinking water, health, jobs and way of life."

The National Wildlife Federation has released a new interactive map showing what has spilled from Enbridge's pipeline system, the repair methods that have been used, and how leaks and defects are being discovered.

The conservation organization noticed from the records that only one of the 29 recorded incidents was detected by a remote pipeline detection system. By contrast, 15 releases were detected by local personnel or the public.

"This new information causes us grave concern about the integrity of the inland pipe system, inconsistencies with spill reporting, and the effectiveness of leak detection systems, repair methods, and long-term planning for the integrity of the decades-old pipeline system," said Beth Wallace, the National Wildlife Federation pipeline safety specialist who discovered the newly released data.

Wallace added, "a significant number of these releases note manufacturing and construction defects, as well as weld failure, which calls into question the overall integrity of the Line 5 system."

Last September, Enbridge filed a work plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifying 18 "holidays" on Line 5—an oil and gas industry term that refers to areas on a pipeline where anti-corrosive coating is missing. However, Enbridge's director of integrity programs Kurt Baraniecki said at a Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting last month that the report used imprecise language.

Enbridge has dismissed the National Wildlife Federation's findings.

"This is not new information and we have addressed this issue many times in the past," company spokesperson Ryan Duffy said via email to MLive. "Over the past fifteen years, there have been three incidents on Line 5 that have resulted in a total of approximately 21 barrels of product being released off the mainline. All of the product released during these three incidents was recovered. There has never been an incident on Line 5 at the Straits."

Still, as InsideClimate News reported, Line 5 is facing mounting political pressure. In January, the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin voted not to renew easements that allowed the pipeline to pass through tribal lands. Also in January, U.S. Reps. Dave Trott (R-Mich) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich) introduced legislation calling for a shutdown of the pipeline if a federal study determines it poses significant threat to the Great Lakes.

Enbridge is not the only pipeline company facing opposition over fears of contamination. On Tuesday, a coalition of more than two dozen organizations launched a new campaign to challenge Energy Transfer Partners' (ETP) operations.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners is the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline and the under-construction Rover Pipeline, which just spilled 2 million of gallons of drilling fluids into two of Ohio's wetlands on April 22.

The coalition has fired off an open letter to the company outlining their grievances and demands. The group has also launched the website StopETP.org as an online hub for the campaign.

ETP is expected to vote to merge with Sunoco Logistics on Wednesday.

"Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics have a damning history of pipeline fires, leaks, and spills, causing millions of dollars in property damage and leaving thousands of gallons of hazardous products in the environment," said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, one of the participating organizations. "These incidents demonstrate a blatant disregard for the communities and waterways impacted by these pipelines."

Lena Moffitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said momentum has been building across the nation.

"From Standing Rock, to Texas, to Ohio, to towns across the country, people are mobilizing against Energy Transfer Partners and its reckless agenda that has threatened our communities, our clean air and water, and our climate," Moffitt said. "We the people are organized, we are determined, and together, we will stop Energy Transfer Partners' dirty and dangerous plans."

Keep reading... Show less

250 Protestors Demand Enbridge Pipeline Shutdown Over Concerns of Great Lakes Oil Spill

Officials from Enbridge Energy Partners insisted on the structural safety of its 64-year-old pipelines that pass under the Straits of Mackinac even though a company-commissioned study found that the lines' protective coating has deteriorated in some areas.

"I believe this pipeline is in as good of condition as it was on the day it was installed," Enbridge's director of integrity programs Kurt Baraniecki said at a Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in Lansing, Michigan on Monday.

But the 250 protestors who showed up to the meeting responded to the comments with "derisive howls and laughter," the Detroit Free Press reported.

The meeting was centered around the Canadian oil transport company's heavily contested Enbridge Line 5 that lies just west of the Mackinac Bridge and carries roughly 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas each day.

Built in 1953, the 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline runs from Superior, Wisconsin, across Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas before terminating in Ontario, Canada. As it travels under the Straits of Mackinac, a narrow waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Line 5 splits into twin 20-inch-diameter, parallel pipelines.

Enbridge Line 5 is a six-decade old major pipeline that carries petroleum to eastern Canada via the Great Lakes states.Enbridge Energy Partners

Environmentalists fear that a potential rupture of oil lines that run through the heart of the Great Lakes, which contains 21 percent of the world's surface fresh water, would be an ecological disaster.

The straits' strong currents reverse direction every few days and a spill would quickly contaminate shoreline communities miles away, a University of Michigan study commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found.

Not only that, opponents cite Enbridge's numerous and well-documented spills. The company was responsible for more than 800 spills between 1999 and 2010, totaling 6.8 million gallons of spilled oil. Most notoriously in 2010, an Enbridge line spilled more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan—creating the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

A protestor named Fred Harrington and his 8-year-old grandson Riley Sargent of Petoskey showed up to the meeting covered in brown cake batter to make a point.

"We wanted show you what the birds will look like, what the fish will look like, what the shoreline will look like if that pipeline breaks," Harrington said at the meeting. "If we continue to let it run and run and run year after year, it will break."


Last September, Enbridge filed a work plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifying 18 "holidays" on Line 5—an oil and gas industry term that refers to areas on a pipeline where anti-corrosive coating is missing

But Baraniecki, the company's integrity programs director, said at the meeting that the report used imprecise language.

As the Detroit Free Press reported:

What was actually identified on the underwater pipes were 18 locations where an outer, glass-fiber coating has come off that doesn't provide corrosion protection, he said.

Referring to those spots as holidays, exposed areas of pipe, in the company's Biota Investigation Work Plan "was incorrect," he said.

"The consultants had generalized this," Baraniecki said. "These were locations we have identified that could potentially have coating holidays."

But opponents are calling foul on the oil company's claims.

"Enbridge began by saying Line 5 is as good as the day it was constructed 64 years ago. Then they went on to admit the protective coatings are peeling off while saying it really doesn't matter," David Holtz, executive committee chair of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, told EcoWatch.

"This is the same company that claimed their pipeline 6B near Marshall Michigan was safe just weeks before it ruptured more than a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River," Holtz continued.

Environmental advocates are also calling on Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to decommission the line.

"Oil pipelines don't belong in the Great Lakes and the governor needs to begin the process now to decommission Line 5 before there's a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes," Holtz said.

The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board is expecting reports from two independent contractors by June. The contractors will assess worst-case-scenarios from a Straits pipeline leak and analyze safer alternatives to transport oil and gas around the Great Lakes.

Holtz said that the Sierra Club plans to continue citizen pressure on Gov. Snyder and AG Schuette as the state prepares for public comment on the reports.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Trump Completes Pipeline Trifecta, Rubber Stamps Enbridge-Spectra Merger

The White House completed its pipeline trifecta Thursday by rubber stamping the Enbridge-Spectra merger after approving the Dakota Access Pipeline and reversing the blocked Keystone XL pipeline.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the deal without requiring the merged firm to divest a single inch of its 38,000-mile oil and gas pipeline network. The company will be able to exert market power to reduce output and raise prices on consumers. As with other industries, this mega-merger only benefits company shareholders, not communities.

The Trump administration is quickly fulfilling the fossil fuel industry's wish list. The American people will pay the price for gargantuan gas giveaways—higher prices, a dirtier environment and climate chaos. Approving this deal is a bad omen for future antitrust enforcement. It seems as though the White House has pulled the cops off the antitrust beat entirely, much to Wall Street's delight.

Canada Approves Kinder Morgan, Enbridge Pipelines Despite Fierce Opposition

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the Canadian government would approve two major tar sands pipeline projects, including expansion of the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

"Our duty is to permit infrastructure so Canada's resources get to market in a more environmentally responsible way, creating jobs and a thriving economy," Trudeau said at a press conference.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline has come under fire from activists and aboriginal groups.

"Apparently Justin Trudeau's sunny ways mean dark days ahead for climate action and Indigenous reconciliation in Canada," Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Mike Hudema said.

"In approving this ecosystem-destroying pipeline, Canada's leaders have ignored the threats to the Salish Sea, its marine species, and its 8 million people, including 29 Tribes and First Nations," Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth's oceans and vessels program director, exclaimed.

Reuters reports that the opposition has "drawn inspiration" from the the current Dakota Access protests and stalled Keystone XL project.

Speaking of Keystone, senior Trump transition adviser Kellyanne Conway will reportedly tour the tar sands region in Alberta a week before the president-elect's inauguration, which may signal that the incoming administration will prioritize the pipeline's approval.

"Today's announcement may as well have said that Canada is pulling out of the Paris climate agreement," Aurore Fauret, tar sands campaign coordinator for 350.org, said. "By approving the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines, there is no way Canada can meet those commitments. Justin Trudeau has broken his promises for real climate leadership, and broken his promise to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples."

Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders rallied last week in Vancouver to oppose the mega-project. Watch here:

For a deeper dive:

Kinder Morgan: Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, CBC News, New York Times, CNBC, Huffington Post, Houston Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Mashable, Climate Home

Conway Visit: Washington Post, Washington Examiner, Grist, Huffington Post, Toronto Star,Calgary Herald

Commentary: Vancouver Sun, Karen Mahon op-ed

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Sponsored

Oil Giant Pulls Plug on Sandpiper Pipeline

Enbridge and the North Dakota Pipeline Company submitted a Petition Thursday to Withdraw their Public Utilities Commission application for the Sandpiper Pipeline Project. As no party is expected to object, this decision is likely the end for the proposed fracked oil pipeline.

Enbridge and the North Dakota Pipeline Company submitted a Petition to Withdraw their Public Utilities Commision application for the "Sandpiper Pipeline Project."

"The end of the proposed Sandpiper pipeline is a crucial victory for the tens of thousands of Americans who have fought to protect their communities, their health and the climate from the threat of fossil fuel infrastructure expansion," Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels director Lena Moffitt said.

This announcement comes as Enbridge has invested in the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been widely protested by the Standing Rock Sioux, who would see the pipeline cross the Missouri River, less than a mile upstream from the Tribe's drinking water supply. The Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by tribes from around the country, environmental groups and thousands of activists who stand in firm opposition to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.

[VDDKKV1472843085]

"As far too many communities throughout the Great Lakes region can attest to, when it comes to pipelines—especially an Enbridge operated pipeline—it's never a question of if it will spill, but rather a question of when," Moffitt continued. "This is a risk no community should face and thanks to today's announcement, thousands of people will remain safe from the dangers of the Sandpiper pipeline."

Enbridge

"Rather than continuing to expand our reliance on fossil fuels, we must continue to transition to clean, renewable energy and leave dirty fuels in the ground, where they belong," she concluded.

Sponsored

300+ Devoted Activists Rally in Minnesota Against Proposed Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion Project

The sky was gray, the temp was just below freezing, the wind was whistling and sleet was pelting down on Kellogg Park in downtown St. Paul, MN, last week …

… but that wasn’t enough to stop more than 300 of us from across the Midwest who came to rally and march against the proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline. With songs, speeches and buoyant enthusiasm, we gathered to say "No" to tar sands expansion and "Yes" to a future free of carbon emissions and oil spills.

More than 300 hundred people braved cold weather April 3 to rally against the expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline. Photo credit: 350.org

The Alberta Clipper is an existing Enbridge pipeline that runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, WI, across much of northern Minnesota. Built in 2010 to carry tar sands oil, it is currently under consideration for expansion from its present 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 800,000 bpd, which would make it almost as large as Keystone XL. Expanding it would be a similar disaster for the climate and would increase the risk of spills into the Mississippi River and Lake Superior.

We’re opposing the expansion at the state level right now in Minnesota through a contested case hearing process at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which is very much like putting the pipeline on trial: there’s a judge and both sides get to make their arguments. The contested case also ensures there are public hearings where anyone can give testimony. It’s an almost-all-volunteer effort—while we have a lawyer, his funds were raised primarily by volunteers who wanted to make sure we had a voice in the process.

We gathered in St. Paul last Thursday from all across the region so we could show up in force to the final public hearing. We marched through downtown to the Public Utilities Commission, led by a group of drummers and a giant paper maché pipeline, turning heads and bringing officeworkers to windows to look down at us.

The PUC hearing was packed, which was the best and worst part of the day because it made a huge impression and they were so unprepared for the crowd. The official police count was 1,000 people (many of our supporters had gone directly to the hearing so they could sign up and testify early, and there were also some pipeline contractors who came to testify in favor of the expansion). Only about 200 people could fit into the hearing room and official overflow room combined.

We brought our big rally sound system indoors and jury-rigged a set of extension speakers in an empty room so more people could listen, but the crowds were still overflowing. I wish more people had been able to actually be part of the hearing, but it was fabulous to see all the interest. One of the officials at the hearing said she’d never seen anything else like this.

There are only a few days left to submitted a public comment yet against the Alberta Clipper pipeline—the public comment period closes on April 14.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Tar Sands Emissions Linked to Serious Health Problems in Alberta

Report Reveals High Risk, No Reward of Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion

Report Details How Extreme Energy Expansion Threatens the Great Lakes

--------

Taking a Stand Against Tar Sands for Three Year Anniversary of Kalamazoo Spill

EcoWatch

By Lauren Berlekamp

Today marks the three year anniversary of when Enbridge's tar sands pipeline spilled more than a million gallons of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. This incident stands as America’s longest-running and most expensive oil cleanup project as state authorities and Enbridge continue their attempts to remove the heavy oil from the bottom of the waterway.

The ruptured Kalamazoo tar sands pipeline. Photo courtesy of NTSB.

“Three years and nearly a billion dollars later, the Kalamazoo River cleanup still is not complete after the nation’s worst inland oil spill," noted Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest Director Henry Henderson. "The mess in Michigan makes clear the significant costs and dangers that have come with our embrace of Alberta’s bottom of the barrel tar sands oil. Today’s anniversary is a sobering reminder of [the] threat that reckless proposals like Keystone XL, Enbridge’s pipeline expansions and Great Lakes tanker terminals pose to the Midwest. We are already struggling with the pollution and climate impacts of existing oil infrastructure in the region, doubling down on tar sands and inviting more incidents like we saw in the Kalamazoo is dangerous lunacy.”

With Enbridge claiming they have adequately cleaned up the Kalamazoo River since the spill, their plans to expand the exact same pipeline were interrupted earlier this week when the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) took direct action at the Stockbridge pumping station. Out of 40 people who showed up to take a stand against the expansion, 12 were arrested including four who locked themselves to construction equipment.

Two of the four who took direct action by locking themselves to construction equipment to protest Enbridge's expansion of the same pipeline that spilled into the Kalamazoo River three years ago.

As of yesterday, all of those arrested were bonded out of jail. The four who were locked down are facing felony and misdemeanor charges, with the rest facing misdemeanor trespassing charges. Bail was set high, costing an additional $12,000 for the felony charges, not including processing fees.

One of the protestors, Al Smith, wrote a statement about his wife, who was one of the four who locked down:

I am a 49 year old man and a laborer by trade. I am
 writing this on behalf of my wife Vicci Hamlin who may be facing
 felony charges. Also, I want to explain to those who may have 
preconceived notions of who and what we are as activists.



My wife Vicci is currently locked up in the Ingham County jail. I can
 only imagine she is feeling afraid and uncertain. Vicci is not a subversive radical. She is one of the kindest and most loving people that I have ever known. She is the mother of six children and grandmother of eight children and great grandmother of one. She has always loved people and believed in passivity in all sorts of stances. She has always stood up for others. She is passionate about women’s rights, civil rights, has helped start a food bank in Ohio. She has taught me more about love, kindness and compassion than anyone I have ever met.

Lately we have watched documentaries together and learned about people whose lives have been shattered by untouchable and obscenely wealthy corporations. These corporate entities who have so much political and legal power, that people like us are completely helpless before them. Since there is no longer any political or legal recourse left to us, we have only two options. We can either close our eyes and focus on ourselves, our families and our friends and try to find some solace while hiding from this overwhelming sense of doom and powerlessness, or we can take a stand. It’s painful and frightening to put ourselves on the line.

Vicci chose to disobey the authorities and lock herself to heavy machinery because we believe it is the only way for people to learn
 what we believe to be the truth. It doesn’t feel good to know we are stopping people like us from doing their jobs, nor does it feel good to have to tie up so many public safety officers. We believe there is
 no painless way to bring about a change that we believe is necessary. We feel our willingness to sacrifice our own safety and comfort is a place to start. We both believe if not us then who, if not now then when?

The MI CATS are continuing to collect donations from supporters through their website.

Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS and PIPELINES pages for more related news on this topic.

——–

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox