LANSING — State Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) held a press conference today calling for Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to close the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. The US Coast Guard, citizens, legislators and environmental groups alike have raised concerns recently over the dangers of the 62-year-old pipeline, which carries 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac every day.
“Bills to increases pipeline safety in Michigan have been waiting for action in Lansing for over a year. Meanwhile this 62 year old pipeline continues to operate in the worst possible place for a spill and we’re supposed to trust that a company with a sketchy track record has it under control,” said Rep. Irwin. “We’ve called for inspections and anchoring of the pipelines, but the legislature and the Governor have ignored those calls. Now, with winter approaching and no action plan in place, we are calling for the pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down and for our Governor and Attorney General to stop sanctioning this threat to our greatest natural resource.”
In 2014, a study done by the University of Michigan’s Water Center concluded that due to the massive, fluctuating flows of the Straits, it would be the worst location in the Great Lakes for an oil spill to happen. Prompting a greater sense of urgency was the recent release of a report by the U.S. Coast Guard, stating they are not adequately equipped to respond to an oil spill in the Lakes. The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has indicated that the line has at least 2,400 known defects as of 2011, and also show that Enbridge, who operates the pipeline, has inspected less than 12 percent of them.
Enbridge was responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010, the largest and most expensive in-land oil spill in U.S. history, and has a history of failure and routine leakages on their pipelines. On Line 5 alone, there have been 15 documented failures over 17 years, leaking about 260,000 gallons of oil. The consequences of a Line 5 rupture in the Straits would be much further reaching, endangering countless plant and wildlife species, as well as threatening Michigan’s $22.4 billion tourism industry.
David Holtz of the Michigan Sierra Club joined Reps. Irwin and Roberts in calling for action on the resolution. “While Michigan businesses and citizens are clamoring for action, the Governor and the Attorney General keep talking about doing more talking,” said Holtz. “At some point, Michigan needs action, not endless task forces and advisory boards that push the obvious solutions further away.”
“In July, our own Attorney General Bill Schuette stated that “Line 5’s days are numbered,” but the task force he created to investigate the issue did not call for the line’s closure and he has taken no action,” said Rep. Roberts. “Despite the known and inevitable risks, this pipeline continues to be operated by a company with a tarnished safety record that offers little transparency about its inspection process. We cannot wait for an emergency to force us to act. Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac must be shut down.”