Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Environmental Groups Blast Michigan Officials for 'Trust' in Pipeline Operator

Popular
The Mackinac bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac. Julie Falk / Flickr

Environmental groups are attacking an agreement between Michigan and Canadian oil transport company Enbridge, Inc. that set a timeline to determine the future of a controversial pipeline running across a channel where Lakes Huron and Michigan come together.

The 645-mile pipeline, Line 5, lies at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile-long environmentally sensitive stretch of water that serves as a center piece in Michigan's tourist industry. It cuts through the state as it runs from western to eastern Canada, bringing 23 million gallons of oil and liquid natural gas across the straits between Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas—an area noted for its choppy waters, unpredictable currents and subzero temperatures.


"I can't imagine another place in the Great Lakes where it'd be more devastating to have an oil spill," Dave Schwab, an expert in hydrodynamics from University of Michigan, told a Motherboard correspondent in 2015.

Monday's agreement between Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge was designed to address immediate concerns about the 64-year-old twin pipeline. Under the agreement, Enbridge is required to halt pipeline operations if waves in the straits reach eight feet or higher for more than an hour.

The deal, which doesn't preclude a permanent shut down of Line 5, requires Enbridge to evaluate three options for routing the pipeline through a tunnel or trench on or beneath the lakebed by June 2018. Enbridge also said it would take steps to prevent pipeline damage from ship anchors, and increase its monitoring by placing cameras and other devices near the pipeline. It would also expedite plans to detect potential ruptures and respond to spills.

"Business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable and we are going to ensure the highest level of environmental safety standards are implemented to protect one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources," Snyder said in a statement. Michigan officials and Enbridge agreed to determine the future of Line 5 by Aug. 15, 2018.

The Republican governor's administration has resisted critics' demands to order the lines decommissioned, but that option "is still on the table," said Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, according to the AP.

But the agreement comes as a growing bipartisan ensemble has voiced criticism for Line 5. Last January, U.S. representatives Dave Trott (R-Mich.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced legislation calling for a shutdown of the pipeline if federal agencies determine it poses a threat to the Great Lakes. In Michigan, Republican state senator Rick Jones introduced similar legislation in March.

Environmental groups complain that the agreement is partial to Enbridge and a plan to keep the pipeline in a tunnel beneath the seabed.

"Citizens are demanding real action," Lisa Wozniak, executive director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, told the Detroit Free Press. "Governor Snyder and Attorney General (Bill) Schuette have the power to shut Line 5 down; they simply are not using it."

Enbridge has a history of opacity inside the Great Lake state. In October, it was revealed that the company had kept information to itself for three years about areas on the pipeline missing protective coating.

The company's past in Michigan and neighboring states is also riddled with oil spills. A federal data analysis in April showed that Line 5 has leaked more than 29 times in its 64-year history—spilling more than one million gallons of oil and gas liquids. Between 1968 and 2015 the spills varied in size from 285,600 gallons to eight gallons.

In 2010, about 240 miles south of the Straits of Mackinaw, another Enbridge pipeline, Line 6B, ruptured, spewing one million gallons of toxic tar sands oil on a 40-mile stretch of river—the largest ever inland oil spill in the U.S. The river was closed for nearly two years for the more than one billion-dollar cleanup. Enbridge paid $2.8 billion for cleanup costs and other fines and penalties associated with the Line 6B spill.

"Our state leaders continue to place an enormous amount of trust in Enbridge to operate it [Line 5] responsibly," Wozniak told the AP. "Even while the company continues to repeatedly break that trust."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Yersinia pestis bacteria causes bubonic plague in animals and humans. Illustration based on light microscope image At 1000x. BSIP / UIG Via Getty Images

A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Plant pathologist Carolee Bull works in her home garden in State College, Pennsylvania. Carolee Bull, CC BY-ND

By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull

Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.

Read More Show Less
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Emma Charlton

The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.

Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.

Read More Show Less
Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba") is a free-living microscopic amoeba (single-celled living organism). Centers for Disease Control

As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.

Read More Show Less

Scientists are urging the WHO to revisit their coronavirus guidance to focus more on airborne transmission and less on hand sanitizer and hygiene. John Lund / Photodisc / Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding the line on its stance that the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus fall quickly to the floor and are not infectious. Now, a group of 239 scientists is challenging that assertion, arguing that the virus is lingering in the air of indoor environments, infecting people nearby, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, oysters live in coastal estuaries where saltwater and freshwater meet and mix. Flickr / CC by 2.0

Along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, oysters live in coastal estuaries where saltwater and freshwater meet and mix.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Japan Self-Defense Forces and police officers join rescue operations at a nursing home following heavy rain in Kuma village, Kumamoto prefecture on July 5, 2020. STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP / Getty Images

Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.

Read More Show Less