BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
Members of environmental group “Friends of the Boyne River” are urging Boyne City commissioners to help deactivate Enbridge’s contentious Line 5.
Despite claims that the gas and oil pipeline under the Great Lakes in the Straits of Mackinac is safe, critics are concerned about both Line 5’s age and delivery capacity.
“The main (reason) … we’re here is to have the city commission pass a resolution to shut down Line 5,” said Friends of the Boyne River member Adam Kennedy…. “It’s a 63-year-old pipeline and it was not designed to carry the amount of oil that it is now.”
Line 5 is a pair of lines owned by Calgary, Canada-based Enbridge, which carry light crude oil and natural gas.
“Originally, it was designed to carry 300,000 barrels of crude a day and it is up to 23 million gallons per day right now,” said Kennedy… “Enbridge is saying that this is a safe pipeline … and that we’re saying that the sky is falling but it’s really far from that. It’s an aging pipeline. It’s doing way more than it was designed to.”
Following emergency oil spill training on the Mackinac Straits back in September of 2015, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco gave a presentation concerning his company and Line 5 to a group at Boyne Mountain in order to address local concerns.
“The fact of life is there are no clear-cut guarantees,” he said, adding, “Just because there is a risk doesn’t mean that that will actually happen. And, our job, as providers of energy, is to make sure that we’re … doing everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Monaco told the group that, while he could not guarantee there would never be another oil spill, the issue of safety is very important to his company.
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said he has received correspondence in recent weeks concerning Line 5.
“I have received … two e-mails that I forwarded to the city commission with regards to this topic—one coming out today—apparently that the state has issued two requests for information on proposals to do an independent risk analysis and independent alternative analysis on the Line 5,” Cain said.
Kennedy said his group is concerned because all of Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes are considered a part of the local watershed.
“Enbridge has a shaky track record,” said Kennedy. “They have had over 1,100 reportable spills in the past 16 or 17 years.”
The Boyne City Gazette could not independently corroborate the “1,100” figure. However, according to environmental group Forest Ethics, Enbridge had more than 610 spills between 1999 and 2008 for a total of nearly 132,000 barrels of hydrocarbon, gas or bitumn.
Kennedy pointed to the Enbridge Kalamazoo River spill approximately six years ago when a million gallons of tar sands oil leaked over 17 hours. The results were a billion-dollar cleanup operation and 38 miles of river contaminated.
“What we’re extremely concerned about is a leak in this pipeline,” said Kennedy. “And, again, it’s two pipelines so it’s double our risk.”
According to Monaco, Line 5 was built to the toughest design requirements because of the straits, and it was built by the same contractor who built the Mackinaw Bridge.
He said the pipe is the thickest pipe in Enbridge’s entire North American system.
Kennedy said even under the best circumstances, only roughly 30 percent of an oil spill under the straits could be cleaned.
“The risk of Line 5 failing is too great,” he said. “It would be catastrophic for our area.”
Kennedy said 35,000,000 rely on the Great Lakes for clean drinking water.
Monaco said the pipeline is tested to 1,700 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure but the line is operated between zero and 300, with 2014’s average at 100.
“We monitor the system 24-7, and we can shut down a line on either side and isolate that section instantaneously,” said Monaco, who added that the
pipe is inspected twice as much as required with divers and remote vehicles.
Enbridge has also signed an agreement with the State of Michigan to only ship light crude oil through Line 5.
Monaco said the problem with rerouting Line 5 is that it would disrupt numerous communities.
The consensus among local officials was to direct city staff to invite representatives from Enbridge and from those opposing the pipeline to attend a future Boyne City Commission wherein the matter will be considered and discussed.
The Boyne City Gazette will publish the time, date and location of such a meeting as soon as it is made available.
The mission of the Friends of the Boyne River is, “improve and conserve the environmental health and recreational quality of the Boyne River and its watershed.”
• Enbridge delivers approximately 2.3 million barrels of oil across the American-Canadian border each day.
• Enbridge moves over half of all Canadian exports into the U.S.
• Canada—not Saudi Arabia—is the largest source of oil imported into the United States.
• Enbridge is also Canada’s largest natural gas distributor with over 2 million customers.
• Their natural gas pipes extend Canada to the Gulf Coast.
• Enbridge has invested nearly $4 billion in renewable energy.
• Enbridge has been working in Northern Michigan since 1953 when it began installing oil and natural gas pipelines.
• Line 5 delivers 85 percent of the propane that is used to heat homes in the U.P. and in Northern Michigan.
• Line 5 was built so oil would no longer be shipped by barges and tankers across the Great Lakes.