Quantcast

Senators Question Enbridge Over Aging Tar Sands Pipeline Beneath Great Lakes

Energy

Oil giant Enbridge experienced a major backlash this week after three Democratic senators released a joint letter questioning the integrity of Enbridge’s expansion of a crude oil pipeline on the Straits of Mackinac.

This
National Wildlife Federation map simulates a 3, 6 and 12 hour spill from the aging tar sands pipeline, Line 5, based on Enbridge spill response plans, average current speeds and “worse case” discharge estimates.

Line 5, according to the Petosky News, runs from Superior,WI, to Sarnia, Ontario, “passing through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and crossing the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile-wide area where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet.” Earlier this year Enbridge boosted Line 5’s capacity by 2.1 million barrels above its previous threshold of 20 million.

The joint letter by Sen. Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Durbin (D-IL) states that the pipeline “passes inland along environmentally sensitive areas and beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which PHMSA [the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] has identified as a high consequence area. The increase in oil transported adds pressure to the aging pipeline, which has undergone only a few upgrades since it was first installed in 1953 … We are particularly concerned with the risks a leak or break in the pipe could pose to the Straits of Mackinac given this area’s strong currents, variable water temperatures and connections to both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.”

“We have worked for over three years on the investigation and levied the highest civil penalty in the agency’s history” for an Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River, PHMSA spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said. “In addition, PHMSA executed a consent agreement which imposed more stringent safety requirements for the entire Lakehead System, including Line 5.”

“When we’ve had to do any sort of dig on that pipeline for maintenance or repair, we’ve heard from the crews out on the field that the line still looks brand new,” said Janson Manshum, a spokesman for Enbridge, in a press conference.

Despite Enbridge’s assurance of the line’s integrity, a disastrous pipeline leak that occurred in 2010 where, along with the Kalamazoo spill, loom heavy over the Line 5 project. Coupled with the Mackinac Straits’ strong currents and wildly fluctuating temperatures, the growing backlash is beyond reasonable.

Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto's former chairman and CEO Hugh Grant speaks about "The Coming Agricultural Revolution" on May 17, 2016. Fortune Brainstorm E / Flickr

By Carey Gillam

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Read More Show Less
A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.