The Canadian company Enbridge is moving forward with plans to build a $500 million oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, which runs between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. The oil transportation company said it would go ahead with plans despite an ongoing lawsuit with Michigan, according to Kallanish Energy.
Enbridge Inc. has hired two companies to build the pipeline, which will run beneath the channel that links Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The construction will replace twin pipes that have been under the Straits of Mackinac in Northern Michigan since 1953, as The Associated Press reported.
Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, has appealed to the state's Court of Appeals to stop the construction. A lower court decided in October that an agreement between Enbridge and former Republican Governor Rick Snyder was legal and could proceed. The Michigan Court of Appeals decided not to halt the project while it considers the case, according to The Associated Press.
Despite the existing lawsuit, Enbridge says it expects construction to start next year and for a new tunnel to be in service by 2024, according to WLUC in Michigan.
The pipeline drew criticism from some of the Democratic presidential candidates. Last summer, Bernie Sanders tweeted that the Line 5 tunnel should be shut down, noting that Enbridge's 6B pipeline spilled 1.2 million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River a decade ago. "Today, with the climate crisis worsening, we must #ShutDownLine5 pipeline in Michigan and ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure. What we need is a Green New Deal," Sanders added to his tweet.
At the end of February, prior to dropping out of the race, Elizabeth Warren also recognized the threat the Enbridge construction posed, tweeting "Michigan's Line 5 pipeline is a threat to millions who rely on the Great Lakes for clean water and a healthy economy." She added, "Let's #ShutDownLine5 and build a 100% clean energy future."
Enbridge said that its success in court so far gave it the confidence to move forward with the project. "We feel like it's time now for Enbridge and the state to work together and keep the project moving," said Ryan Duffy, an Enbridge spokesman.
The Line 5 tunnel carries 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids every day between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. A near 4-mile segment divides into two pipes that run beneath the Straits of Mackinac, according to The Associated Press.
Besides the Kalmazoo River spill ten years ago, an Enbridge gas pipeline exploded in spectacular fashion two years ago. That pipeline in British Columbia exploded from stress and corrosion. As Reuters reported, "Police photos from a helicopter showed a nine-meter-deep crater and dozens of scorched evergreen trees at the site."
Enbridge claims that it has done a thorough study of the sediment under the Straits of Mackinac and that it will be able to build the Line 5 tunnel safely and efficiently, according to Up North Live.
However, critics of the project do not agree with Enbridge's assessment.
"We recommend that the authority looks at Line 5 holistically at the entire pipeline infrastructure in Michigan," said Ashley Soltysiak, policy and program coordinator at the advocacy group Tip of the Mitt Watershed, to Up North Live. "The four miles in the Straits of Mackinac can't be separated from the rest that poses a risk to citizen's public health and safety."
For Love of Water, an advocacy group, argued that Enbridge did not seek authorization for the project through the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act as required under a common-law doctrine, according to The Associated Press.
Bypassing those laws is "one of the most egregious attacks on citizens' rights and sovereign public trust interest in the Great Lakes in the history of the state of Michigan," said Jim Olson, the group's president, to The Associated Press.
- Great Lakes 'At Risk' From Plan to Replace Aging Enbridge ... ›
- Great Lakes Pipeline Dispute Highlights a Broader Energy Dilemma ... ›
A natural gas pipeline owned by Canadian company Enbridge exploded in Kentucky early Thursday, sending flames 300 feet into the sky, killing one woman and sending five people to the hospital, CBS News reported. The blast was so strong it showed up on radar.
"It was like an atomic bomb went off, basically," one evacuee told WKYT, as CBS News reported. All told, around 75 people were forced to flee their homes in the Indian Camp trailer park in Moreland, The Associated Press reported.
The explosion occurred around 1 a.m. It destroyed at least five homes in the trailer park and damaged four others, The Louisville Courier Journal reported. It took firefighters hours to fight the flames, which burned trees and grass in the area and left only red dirt behind, according to The Associated Press.
"The part of the area that has been compromised, there's just nothing left," Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Don Gilliam said. "The residences that are still standing or damaged will be accessible. There doesn't really look like there's any in-between back there. They're either destroyed or they're still standing."
The flames also melted tar on the nearby U.S. 127 and were visible throughout Lincoln County. The smoke could be seen from Louisville, 70 miles away, according to The Louisville Courier Journal.
Jodie Coulter, one of the five people injured, described the blast.
"I could feel it as we were running from the house," Coulter told The Louisville Courier Journal. "I could feel it, like if you had your hand in an oven."
The woman who died was identified as 58-year-old Lisa Denise Derringer, one of Coulter's neighbors in the mobile home park. Kentucky State Police spokesman Robert Purdy said she may have left her home because of the fire and died from heat exposure, as The Associated Press reported.
Nearby railway tracks were also damaged, causing an overnight back-up of 31 trains, Purdy said.
The explosion was the second this year on Enbridge's Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline, Reuters pointed out. Another explosion in Ohio in January on the same line injured two. But, as Quartz summarized, Enbridge overall has a history of disasters from both its natural gas and liquid oil pipelines. Its lines were behind both the Kalamazoo River spill, which dumped around one million gallons of tar sands oil into the Michigan waterway in 2010, and a 50,000 gallon oil spill in Wisconsin in 2012. A Greenpeace report found that the company averaged one hazardous liquid pipeline accident every 20 days between 2002 and 2018.
Despite its record, the company is behind a controversial plan to replace its aging line 5 pipelines with an oil-transport tunnel under Michigan's Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes.
Washington Gov. and climate-focused presidential candidate Jay Inslee came out against both the existing pipelines and the proposed tunnel last month, calling them "a clear and present threat to the health of the Great Lakes and to our climate" in a statement reported by The Detroit News.
But the dangers of fossil fuel use are bigger than one company. Environmental group Earthworks noted that the Kentucky explosion was the fourth involving oil and gas infrastructure in the last two days.
We've been devastated to hear the news of explosions at fossil fuel and #petrochemical facilities in #Colorado #Texas #Pennsylvania and #Kentucky in just the past 2 days.— EARTHWORKS (@Earthworks) August 1, 2019
We cannot wait to get off #fossilfuels. We need a #JustTransition now. https://t.co/N8Dm6xGAEu @melissat22 pic.twitter.com/tRj3h0AKMw
"These incidents are just the latest in a growing list of injurious and deadly fossil fuel impacts across the United States," Earthworks blogger Melissa Troutman wrote. "As the renewable energy revolution continues to grow, these events are a tragic reminder of what our society has yet to leave behind."
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
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One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
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And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Both TransCanada's Keystone pipeline and Enbridge's Platte pipeline run parallel to each other through the area. The Keystone pipeline, which carries 590,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, has faced opposition from environmental activists in the area because it transports from Alberta's tar sands.
"[Leaks] are one more reason on top of climate change to show that tar sands are dangerous and should not be running through our state," Missouri Sierra Club Director John Hickey told St. Louis Public Radio. Residents are also worried the poor quality of the pipeline's steel makes leaks more likely, Hickey said.
The leak was discovered by a TransCanada technician 7:14 a.m. Wednesday. The technician found crude oil covering some 4,000 square feet around the pipeline in St. Charles County, Missouri. TransCanada said it was not sure how much oil had leaked, but thought it was around 43 barrels. The company said it was not yet possible to tell if the leak came from the Keystone or neighboring Enbridge pipeline.
"Until you can excavate and see the top of the pipes, you can't really determine which pipeline the release occurred from," TransCanada Public Information Officer Matthew John told St. Louis Public Radio.
Excavation equipment sits near where Keystone oil pipeline runs through northern St. Charles Co. Ppipeline was shut… https://t.co/DNRn7pyJaM— David Carson (@David Carson)1549563636.0
Part of the Enbridge Platte pipeline, which carries 164,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Casper to Guernsey, Wyoming and 145,000 barrels a day from Guernsey to Wood River, Illinois, is also shut down.
"The release was reported in a location near several oil pipelines operated by several different companies, including one that is operated by Express Holdings (USA), LLC, an Enbridge affiliate," Enbridge said in a statement emailed to CBC News. "As such, personnel are onsite and working with those companies to identify the source of the oil and begin cleanup efforts. The oil is contained on the site."
Missouri Department of Natural Resources Environmental Emergency Response also responded to the spill, and section head Brad Harris told St. Louis Public Radio that the spill did not threaten any waterways or endangered species.
"We were very fortunate in the fact that there's a natural containment the oil resides," Harris said.
Yesterday, MoDNR staff responded to a release of 43 barrels of crude oil into the soil in St. Charles County. Clean… https://t.co/ref5ddbb8J— Missouri DNR (@Missouri DNR)1549573233.0
The pipeline closures caused the price of Canadian crude oil to fall Thursday, Bloomberg News reported. There is increased demand for Canadian oil at U.S. refineries in the Gulf due to sanctions on Venezuela. However, Alberta also had to lower oil production in January because of pipeline congestion, CBC News reported.
Top Trump Official for Pipeline Safety Profits from Selling Oil Spill Equipment https://t.co/Zk2vFZWbCT @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1507845632.0
At least two people were reportedly injured and two homes are believed to have been damaged in the incident.
"We got reports flames were shooting (up) 80 feet to 200 feet (25-60 meters)," Chasity Schmelzenbach, emergency management director for Noble County, Ohio, told Reuters. "You could see it upwards of 10-15 miles (16-24 km) away. Lots of people thought it was in their backyard because it does appear large."
The Canadian energy transportation company confirmed that the incident occurred on its 30-inch Texas Eastern pipeline. The pipeline was built in 1952-53 and an in-line inspection was performed in 2012, "and no remediation was needed," Enbridge said.
Enbridge responds to Texas Eastern system incident in Ohio: https://t.co/TT4zeylCJT— Enbridge (@Enbridge)1548107867.0
The fire has been contained and residents near the incident have been evacuated, the company said, adding that "field operations immediately started to shut in and isolate that section of pipeline."
"Our first concern is for the safety of the community and our employees," Enbridge said. "We have activated our emergency response plan and are cooperating with authorities in our response."
Noble County resident Trina Moore, who lives 7 miles from the scene, told The Daily Jeffersonian that the explosion caused her home to shake.
"Our house shook so bad things came off the walls," Moore said. "Pictures came off the wall and it shook for about 15 seconds, but it felt like forever. All of the neighbors ran outside."
The 9,029-mile Texas Eastern pipeline carries natural gas from the U.S. Gulf Coast and Texas to high demand markets in the northeastern U.S., according to the operator's website. It's not yet clear if the shut-in will impact its customers, Reuters noted.
In October, another Enbridge-owned pipeline exploded in rural land north of Prince George, British Columbia, forcing 100 people to evacuate from the nearby Lheidli T'enneh First Nation.
Enbridge is the same company behind the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota and the contentious Line 5 oil pipeline, which is notable for a section that runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.
Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.
The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.
The new law creates a three-member Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority that is required to enter an agreement with the Canadian oil company on the construction and operation of the tunnel before the end of the month.
Snyder signed Senate Bill 1197 just a day after the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature approved the bill—a move seen as a lame-duck rush before Democrats Gretchen Whitmer and Dana Nessel take over as governor and attorney general respectively, as the Detroit Free Press noted.
Both Whitmer and Nessel made campaign promises to shut down Line 5 over fears that the 65-year-old twin pipelines could spill and contaminate the Great Lakes, a source of drinking water for tens of millions of people. Line 5 has spilled 1.1 million gallons of oil along the right of way since 1968.
Dana Nessel for Michigan Attorney General- SHUT DOWN LINE 5! www.youtube.com
Environmentalists say Snyder's move has effectively allowed Line 5, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and liquefied natural gas a day, to run for another decade while the tunnel is being built.
Under the new plan, the existing pipelines will be replaced with a new tunneled pipeline under the bedrock of the Straits of Mackinac. The project will take seven to 10 years to complete and cost as much as $500 million. Enbridge will foot the bill.
"We are deeply disappointed Gov. Snyder approved legislation that will keep oil pumping through the damaged Line 5 Pipeline for another decade or more," Lisa Wozniak, executive director at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said in an online statement.
"On Nov. 6, the people of Michigan made their position clear by electing candidates who pledged to keep oil pipelines out of our Great Lakes and protect our drinking water. We will continue to advocate, communicate and fight to protect our water and oppose oil pipelines in the Great Lakes as the new administration takes office," Wozniak added.
A recent poll by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA poll found 54 percent of Michigan voters want Line 5 shut down.
Snyder also appointed three members to the new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, Geno Alessandrini, Tony England and Michael Zimmer, who will each serve six-year terms.
No more than two members from the same party may serve on the panel. Snyder said both England and Alessandrini are Democrats. Zimmer is a Republican, according to the Detroit Free Press.
"We all understand the importance of bringing certainty to removing Line 5 from the waters in the Straits of Mackinac," Snyder said in an online statement. "By working together, they helped garner bipartisan support to ensure we are protecting the Great Lakes while securing better energy infrastructure for Michigan."
Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the company looks forward to working with the new authority.
"Replacing the Straits segment of Line 5 in a tunnel deep under the lake bed makes a safe pipeline even safer while ensuring a reliable and affordable energy supply to Michigan and the region," Duffy said in a statement, as quoted by The Detroit News.
Great Lakes 'At Risk' From Plan to Replace Aging Enbridge Pipelines, Environmentalists Argue https://t.co/etUxGvlp0x— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1538750901.0
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly said that Line 5 has spilled 1.1 million gallons of oil "into the lakes" since 1968. The pipeline has never spilled into the lakes itself, but along the right of way.
By Douglas Bessette
A deal involving an aging oil pipeline in Michigan reflects the complex decisions communities across the country need to make to balance the needs for energy and safety with efforts to deal with climate change.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge, a Canadian company, have reached an agreement over a leak-prone pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, the four-mile-long waterway that divides Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Rather than shut the 65-year-old pipeline down altogether, as environmentalists are demanding, or conduct routine maintenance, as Enbridge desired, Snyder is requiring Enbridge to replace the pipeline at an estimated cost of up to $500 million without a deadline.
While the lakes, beaches and livelihoods vulnerable to harm from a potential spill are perhaps unique to Michigan, the question of what to do about a host of aging pipelines across the U.S. is not. Nearly half of the nation's pipelines currently operating were built before 1960.
Amid rising oil and gas production, there are hard compromises to make between ensuring an adequate energy supply, protecting public safety, and reducing the nation's reliance on fossil fuels—a key contributor to climate change. But my research suggests that there may be a straightforward way for both decision-makers and the public to make these choices.
Millions of Miles
Approximately 3 million miles of pipelines move crude oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids across the U.S. Most crude oil pipelines traversing the center of the country transport oil from western Canada and North Dakota southward to refineries in Texas and Louisiana.
More of the natural gas pipelines that span the county are concentrated around the Marcellus Shale formation, in eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania. And 60 percent of the 319,000 miles of pipelines currently transporting natural gas were installed before 1970.
Compared to hauling fuel by rail or truck, the Transportation Research Board, a nonprofit that serves as an advisory body to the White House, Congress and federal agencies, considers pipelines to be safer. Yet when pipeline accidents do occur, they are typically larger and impact the environment more directly than the alternatives.
When a natural gas line exploded in Massachusetts, where many pipes are over 100 years old, it destroyed 80 homes and killed one person. In 2012, another pipeline operated by the same company—Columbia Gas, this one built in 1967, exploded.
That earlier accident in Sissonville, West Virginia, charred 800 feet of roadway along a nearby highway, wrecking three homes, and melted the siding on houses hundreds of feet away. Following an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board found many causes. Among them: corrosion and a lack of automatic or remote shutoff valves.
In 2010, one of Enbridge's Michigan pipelines ruptured, spilling 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. That pipeline was built in the 1960s, and made with the sorts of welding processes and protective coverings that have not stood the test of time. The cost to clean up that spill was more than $1 billion and spurred concerns among Michiganders over the safety of the Straits pipeline.
A big spill in the Straits of Mackinac could result in oil polluting over 1,200 miles of shoreline, cause $1.3 billion in damage and cost $500 million to clean up, Michigan Technological University researchers estimate.
Following an independent risk analysis, Snyder and Enbridge agreed that a replacement pipeline should be placed inside a tunnel and buried beneath the lakebed. Taking that step would substantially reduce the risk of a spill. But it will also take at least seven years to build. And the agreement assumes the Straits pipeline would continue to operate during the new pipeline's construction.
There's one good reason why old and dangerous pipelines aren't being shut down: the emergence of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—the process by which water, sand and chemicals are injected underground at high pressures to crack rock and release the oil and gas trapped inside.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, building the pipelines to accommodate this increase in output would require annual investments between $12-19 billion. A 2008 report prepared for the Edison Foundation predicted that modernizing the national oil and gas transmission and distribution network would cost $900 billion before 2030.
As the battles over the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines have shown, opposition to new long-term fossil fuel infrastructure projects is growing. Replacing old dangerous pipelines with new ones is not easy—or fast, even if it might reduce risks and carbon emissions.
There is also growing evidence, such as the latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that instead of a bigger and better pipeline network, the U.S. needs a new energy strategy, aimed at ending reliance on fossil fuels altogether by 2050. The problem is that once pipelines are built, they typically last decades. Building new ones would further lock in dependence on fossil fuels.
A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans support aggressive action on global warming. But smaller numbers back some of the specific policies or actions that might take.
As my research suggests, adopting a more comprehensive and logical process for making decisions could provide a way forward. This process helps communities identify their most important objectives first and then evaluate options according to those specific goals. It's an approach that ensures that what's most important—climate change, jobs and protecting ecosystems, for instance—gets addressed.
It could become handy the next time a state and a corporation tangle over whether or not to replace a big aging pipeline–even when this debate is less contentious than the one about Michigan's Straits of Mackinac.
Great Lakes 'At Risk' From Plan to Replace Aging Enbridge Pipelines, Environmentalists Argue https://t.co/etUxGvlp0x— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1538750901.0
Douglas Bessette is an assistant professor of community sustainability at Michigan State University.
Disclosure statement: Douglas Bessette does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated the estimated cost to replace the pipeline to be $500 billion in the third paragraph. The correct figure is $500 million.
A 36-inch natural gas transmission pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge exploded around 5:45 p.m. in rural land north of Prince George, British Columbia on Tuesday, the Canadian pipeline company said in a media release.
The blast forced 100 people to evacuate from the nearby Lheidli T'enneh First Nation as a precaution, Enbridge said.
"I was able to see it very clearly from the hill," Prince George resident Dhruv Desai commented to the Canadian Press. "It was huge even from this distance."
Big fire north of #Princegeorge. Smoke up to 10k feet. https://t.co/mdbgjbnzvd— Greg N (@Greg N)1539132528.0
There are no reports of injuries as a result of the blast and most residents have been allowed to return home. The line has been shut down and an investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the incident, the company said.
Chief Dominic Frederick of Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, who posted video footage of the explosion onto Facebook, told CBC News that the explosion happened only about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the reserve.
"We sort of trained for it ... because of the wildfires," Frederick added about the speedy evacuation. "Everything was just left behind."
Frederick told the Associated Press that Enbridge contacted him soon after the explosion.
"They had told me there was gas building up in the underground. For some reason or another the gas had stopped flowing and it built up and it just exploded," he said.
What a shot! This image of Tuesday’s @Enbridge natural gas pipeline explosion was sent to us by @GlobalBC viewer Tr… https://t.co/pPo7iV8iPN— Sarah MacDonald (@Sarah MacDonald)1539189139.0
The blast may lead to a natural gas shortage to homes in British Columbia as well as bordering American states. According to the Associated Press, the damaged Enbridge pipeline connects to the Northwest Pipeline system, which feeds Puget Sound Energy in Washington State and Northwest Natural Gas in Portland.
On Wednesday, Enbridge said in a media release that it received the National Energy Board's approval to restart its 30-inch line located in the same right of way as the impacted 36-inch line.
"This restart approval follows a comprehensive integrity assessment that evaluated a number of potential impacts," the company said. "Enbridge looked for evidence of damage to the pipe, geotechnical and ground disturbance, and other potential integrity issues on the 30-inch line."
Enbridge will gradually bring the line's pressure up to approximately 80 percent of normal operating capacity.
"Once this process is safely completed, some much-need capacity will be restored for our customers," it added.
Two environmental groups have filed suit against the U.S. Coast Guard in a Detroit federal district court, arguing that their plan to respond in the case of a Great Lakes pipeline oil spill is inadequate, The Detroit News reported on Aug. 22.
The suit is part of a larger push to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan and comes as indigenous activists have set up camps protesting the line that could damage 400 miles of shoreline in a spill.
"Until we decommission this aging, risky pipeline, we need the best-possible spill response plan to protect our Great Lakes, our communities, our wildlife and our economy," National Wildlife Federation staff attorney Oday Salim said in a statement reported by The Detroit News.
National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) are suing based on comments made by former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft during a congressional hearing in November during which he said the Coast Guard was not prepared for a pipeline spill in the Great Lakes.
"Between 2014 and 2017, Coast Guard personnel have publicly stated that the agency is ill-equipped to adequately remove a spill from the open waters of the Great Lakes—let alone one as severe as a worst case discharge," the lawsuit states, Courthouse News Service reported.
The suit argues that the Coast Guard's 2017 approval of the North Michigan Area Contingency Plan violates the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which was written in response to the Exxon-Valdez oil spill and mandates contingency plans in any areas where oil is transported through water, according to The Detroit News.
The case further argues that, if the contingency plan is invalid, the facility response plan (FRP) required to allow Enbridge to run its pipelines under the Great Lakes would also be invalid, according to Courthouse News Service.
"You are not allowed to operate without a facility response plan," ELPC senior attorney Margrethe Kearney told The Detroit News. "If the court agrees, as they should, that the area contingency plan is not valid then certainly one of the outcomes could be someone requesting that Line 5 be shut down."
Mistrust of Enbridge partly stems from a rupture in its line 6B in July 2010, in which more than one million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in one of the nation's largest inland oil spills, according to Courthouse News Service.
Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Paul Rhynard refused to comment on the lawsuit, but told Michigan Live that the Coast Guard was "confident" in the existing plan.
"The efforts that goes into these contingency plans is deliberate," Rhynard said.
Environmental Groups Blast Michigan Officials for 'Trust' in Pipeline Operator https://t.co/QSHR1ZKWJf @GSCV… https://t.co/Ok08bU0mgp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1511971507.0
A group of Standing Rock veterans and their allies have set up camp in Northern Michigan to stop another pipeline: Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that passes under the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan as it carries oil from Western Canada to Ontario, Michigan Radio reported Sunday.
The protesters, about 15 in total, are concerned about the possible damage an oil spill from the pipeline could do to the Great Lakes and have vowed not to leave their camps until the pipeline is removed.
"As long as it takes 'til it's shut," Nancy Shomin, who helped start the camp, told UpNorthLive Monday.
The protest camps follow growing concern about the aging pipeline after it was dented by an anchor in April. In July, an independent report found a spill from the pipeline could damage 400 miles of shoreline in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario and cost Michigan around $2 billion, Michigan Radio reported.
At a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing Monday, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) criticized Enbridge for dragging its feet to shut down operations during a storm shortly after the anchor strike.
"Can you see why that is something that people look at and say, Enbridge is not really focused on going the extra measure of safety, when they had a damaged pipe and severe weather and they pushed back on shutting down to make sure nothing happened?" he said to applause, addressing Enbridge senior vice president of operations for liquid pipelines David Bryson, according to Michigan Radio.
The protesters say the only safe move is to shut the pipeline down permanently.
"It's one of those things where it's not if, it's when," Clint Cayou, who joined the protest from Mason, Nebraska, told UpNorthLive. "The pipeline is dangerously close to being a real hazard to a lot of people and it needs to be shut down."
The group is led by members of Indigenous nations from the Great Lakes area and has named its camp Camp Anishinaabek, from Anishinaabe, which is the name for an umbrella group containing the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi and other peoples, according to Michigan Radio.
The camp set-up actually includes two locations about 15 miles south of the Straits of Mackinac and is on land owned by husband-and-wife protesters James Pitawanakwat of the Wikwemkoong Unceded Territory First Nation and Christina Keshick of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Pitawanakwat, who was arrested during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, linked the two struggles.
"This was the same concern over at Standing Rock, and it would affect millions of people," Pitawanakwat told UpNorthLive. "We're just appalled that the oil companies still are this defiant."
The protesters first announced their camp on their Facebook page Aug. 9, but have begun to get attention from local media since Sunday.
"I hope a lot of people come and help shut it down," Keshick said.
Activists May Argue Pipeline Shutdown Was Necessary Due to Climate Change, Court Rules https://t.co/WrGps8TNTn… https://t.co/EF5HiYFxLw— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1524655208.0
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By Logan Carroll
The Minnesota section of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline accounts for nearly 300 miles of the longest crude oil transport system in the world, and it is failing. The multi-billion-dollar transnational corporation has applied for a permit to replace it. Opposition from tribes in the region and environmental groups is slowing the project, but the process at times appears so tilted in Enbridge's favor that, watching the court battles and utility commission meetings, it almost feels like Enbridge wrote the rules.
At one point in its application to build the new Line 3, Enbridge listed all the federal and state laws that regulate the permitting and construction of pipelines. Nearly all the Minnesota laws originated in one 1987 Senate bill: S.F. 90.
This bill was accompanied by unprecedented pipeline industry lobbying—led in spending by Enbridge—and included subtle but major handouts to pipeline companies. One such provision imposes a sweeping limit on the public's ability to oppose new pipelines, including the Line 3 replacement project.
According to environmental lawyer Paul Blackburn, one of the largest barriers to pipeline regulation is actually the federal Pipeline Safety Act, which preempts most state regulations. He called the law "a beautiful example of how to appear to regulate something without actually regulating it at all."
Still, Blackburn said there are ways for states to regulate pipelines, with some of the most powerful being zoning, permitting, and routing laws. However, S.F. 90 includes industry-friendly language that undercuts these and other potential regulations.
The bill allowed pipeline operators to classify their own data after a spill, making it inaccessible to the public. It instituted stiff civil and criminal penalties for pipeline company employees who failed to alert the authorities or destroyed evidence after a spill, but the companies were subject only to relatively small fines.
Perhaps S.F. 90's largest handout was the overhaul of Minnesota's routing and permitting process. Before 1987, counties and towns could use zoning to exert some control over the routing and permitting of pipelines (how and where they were built), but S.F. 90 preempted local zoning of pipelines, a measure with implications for the Line 3 battle today. Instead, a new pipeline would require only a single routing permit, issued by the Environmental Quality Board, an authority which shifted to the Public Utilities Commission in 2005.
This is the commission that will decide the fate of Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project, a decision expected in June.
The bill's strongest provision established the call-before-you-dig system, requiring pipeline operators to register the locations of their lines. However, the system is overseen by a nonprofit run by pipeline and excavation industry representatives, and while excavators who don't comply are fined, there is no punishment for pipeline operators who don't register their lines.
Hidden Pipelines, Hidden Influence?
In 1986, in Mounds View, Minnesota, a gasoline pipeline exploded, leveling an entire city block and killing two: a woman and her daughter. After the explosion, the governor convened a commission to study how to better regulate the industry. The commission was co-chaired by state Senator Steve Novak, who was also S.F. 90's primary sponsor.
He describes the bill as a compromise between three sides: industry, government and environmentalists. Before S.F. 90, Novak said, "You'd be living in your neighborhood, going to a school, at a park—some damn pipeline was going right underneath you and you didn't know it."
The next legislative session, while S.F. 90 was being drafted in early 1987, Enbridge Energy Partners (then Lakehead Pipe Line Company) spent more than $15,000 lobbying the Minnesota Legislature. This might seem modest post-Citizens United, but it was more than the company would spend in the state in the next 18 years combined.
The petroleum and natural gas industry spent $47,101 in the first six months of that year, nearly all of it by pipeline companies, a figure that would drop to only $17,479 in the year that followed this period. Although not required to disclose how they spent this money, typical lobbying expenses include wining and dining public officials, advertising, or preparing and distributing lobbying materials.
Novak doesn't recall many specifics of how the bill was drafted, except that nothing was controversial at the time and everything was unanimous, including the preemption of local zoning. One of the problems S.F. 90 addressed was that no one—including counties and cities—was regulating pipelines at all. The routing and permitting provision wasn't meant to limit regulation, but to expand it by clearly identifying who was responsible for these decisions.
For his part, Novak doesn't recall the industry manipulating the process, though he admits the possibility. "If there were things that occurred in the seams and along the edges that, possibly, 30 years later, appear to be a manipulation, we didn't know it at the time," Novak said.
Novak's explanation echoes the conclusion of a 2014 Suffolk University study of the effectiveness of state-level lobbying: "By showing a willingness to work with a bill that an interest group opposes in its current form, the lobbyist reassures legislators who might otherwise worry about the intent of the lobbyist and the veracity of the information the lobbyist is providing." When using this approach, the study found, lobbyists were able to insert industry-friendly language into 65 percent of state legislation.
"There may be conspiracies," Novak laughed a little, "going on today that we didn't think of in those days … I would recommend you find some legislators to fix it."
Trying to Fix It
In 2013, state Rep. Frank Hornstein introduced a modest oil transport safety bill in response to the Lac-Mégantic, Canada, oil train disaster that killed 47 people and an oil train derailment in Minnesota that released 30,000 gallons.
The bill would have required pipeline and railroad companies to pay into a first responder safety fund and conform to some standards for responding to spills.
Early on, rail companies opposed the bill but quickly accepted many of the provisions. The pipeline industry was silent until the very end. "Out of nowhere, they almost literally parachuted into town," Hornstein said. They poured in from Washington, DC; Oklahoma; the Gulf Coast: "All these lobbyists descended on the capital and started lobbying against my bill."
Hornstein sat down with the lobbyists, who represented the American Petroleum Institute and pipeline companies, including Enbridge. He described a tense meeting which culminated in one lobbyist demanding to know his "philosophy of oil."
"I don't know," he said. "There's a lot of it and it causes climate change."
After that, things moved quickly. While Hornstein worked to get his bill through the House, industry lobbyists worked to get all references to pipelines removed from the Senate version. A small war erupted when reconciling the two versions, requiring the governor's intervention. In the end, the bill regulated only oil trains; pipeline operators would pay into the safety fund but all other references to them were removed.
New Line 3, Same Old Story
In the last several years, most of Enbridge's lobbying efforts in the state have been directed at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Last year, Enbridge spent more than $5 million to influence the PUC, including lawyers' fees to argue before the commission. However, the company now spends more than $200,000 a year lobbying the legislature. Perhaps not coincidentally, the legislature passed a bill last week that would have allowed Line 3 to bypass the PUC altogether. This week, the governor vetoed that bill.
Most developments in the bureaucratic war over Line 3 happen at the state capital, politically and geographically removed from those the pipeline would affect most. The wording was subtle, but if S.F. 90 hadn't preempted local zoning, those opposing Line 3 could work with local officials to erect additional barriers.
For better or worse, S.F. 90 was an historic piece of legislation. Just last summer, Novak met with others who helped craft S.F.90 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its passage. He's proud of the bill and points out that call-before-you-dig has likely prevented another catastrophe. On the other hand, S.F. 90 continues to benefit oil and pipeline companies and limit public participation in decisions about pipelines.
"Maybe times have changed," Novak said of the law, "and it's time to revisit it."
Enbridge did not respond to requests for comment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog. Follow this link for relevant details on Minnesota laws and the Minnesota Commission on Public Safety.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that four climate activists facing criminal charges may use an unusual "necessity defense" over their efforts to shut down a pair of tar sands pipelines owned by Enbridge Energy.
"Valve turners" Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein were charged after shutting off the emergency valves on the two pipelines in October 2016. Johnston and Klapstein, and the two defendants who filmed them, argue their actions to stop the flow of the polluting bitumen were justified due to the threat of climate change.
The pipelines targeted were Enbridge line 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minnesota; TransCanada's Keystone pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota; Spectra Energy's Express pipeline at Coal Banks Landing, Montana; and Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Washington.
5 Climate Activists Shut Down 5 Tar Sands Pipelines https://t.co/3IZWbkh9bZ @NoTarSands @tarsandsRESIST— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476237008.0
The case now heads to trial in Clearwater County later this year. This court's decision allows the defense to call on climate scientists and other experts to explain the threat of climate change during the trial.
"The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld our right to present the facts on the ongoing climate catastrophe, caused largely by the fossil fuel industry, to a Minnesota jury," Klapstein told the Associated Press in a statement. "As a retired attorney, I am encouraged to see that courts across the country seem increasingly willing to allow the necessity defense in climate cases."
The activists face felony charges of criminal damage to property and other counts.
In October, a district court judge ruled that he will allow the pipeline protesters to present the necessity defense for the charges. State prosecutors challenged the decision and the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in February.
According to the Associated Press, the three-judge appeals panel ruled 2-1 Monday that the prosecutor failed to show that allowing the necessity defense will have a "critical impact" on the outcome of the protesters' trials.
However, Appeals Judge Francis Connolly wrote in a dissenting opinion that the necessity defense does not apply "because there is no direct, causal connection between respondents' criminal trespass and the prevention of global warming."
"This case is about whether respondents have committed the crimes of damage to property and trespass. It is not about global warming," Connolly wrote.
This is not the first time a court has dismissed charges against a group of protesters using the defense. Last month, a Boston judge sided with 13 climate activists who were arrested for protesting the West Roxbury Mass Lateral Pipeline. The protestors argued the threat of climate change necessitated their civil disobedience.
Boston Judge Acquits 13 Pipeline Protesters in Groundbreaking Decision https://t.co/u5U1hiT0da @TarSandsAction @NoTarSands— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522271109.0
Judge Mary Ann Driscoll of West Roxbury District Court decided it was necessary for the protestors to engage in civil disobedience to block the construction of Spectra Energy's high-pressure fracked gas pipeline and acquitted the activists of civil infractions, according to media reports.
The judge made the decision after hearing each defendant's testimony. They argued the threat of climate change necessitated their civil disobedience.
"Part of why Judge Mary Ann Driscoll found no liability was because they engaged in a sustained effort to end the project and attempted legal remedies by the city council, mayor, and other agencies to stop the pipeline.
Even though the pipeline was still constructed and operational by January 2017, that was irrelevant. The judge found the activists were not liable."
"What happened today was really important," she said. "Essentially, the people that put themselves in the way of building this fossil fuel pipeline were found 'not responsible' by reason of necessity."
"The irony of that is that we are making ourselves responsible. We are part of the the movement that is standing up and saying we won't let this go by on our watch. We won't act like nothing's wrong."
According to The Independent:
"Neither Ms Driscoll or the court clerk was available for comment. However, one member of the court's staff who asked not to be named, told The Independent the judge had found them not responsible. The person denied, however, that the judge had made the ruling on the grounds of legal necessity."
The trial took place this week after the state prosecutor reduced the original charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace to civil infractions—the equivalent of a parking ticket.
The Civil Disobedience Center, which supported the protestors, said that the prosecution's reduced charges meant the activists were denied a chance to present a "necessity defense" against the gas pipeline.
"By reducing the charges, the prosecutor has avoided what could have been a groundbreaking legal case. The action effectively denied the 13 defendants a jury trial," the Civil Disobedience Center explained in a press release.
While the activists said they were disappointed that they would not get the chance to present their case to a jury of their peers, they still felt their resistance had a positive impact, the release noted.
He tweeted, "Good golly! A few minutes ago a Boston judge acquitted 13 pipeline protesters on the grounds that the climate crisis made it necessary for them to commit civil disobedience. This may be a first in America."
Good golly! A few minutes ago a Boston judge acquitted 13 pipeline protesters on the grounds that the climate crisi… https://t.co/Gdfyw4UXQp— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1522178526.0