Environmental Groups Blast Michigan Officials for 'Trust' in Pipeline Operator
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.
Enbridge's Great Lakes Pipeline Has Spilled 1 Million Gallons Since 1968 https://t.co/9lFaOia3Y8 (@EcoWatch)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1493672403.0
"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."
By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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