Almost a year ago, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan joined with the other three Episcopal dioceses in the state to pass a resolution urging our brothers and sisters of faith to ask Governor Snyder to restrict the use of Enbridge Line 5 until an independent panel of pipeline experts could verify that Line 5 is safe:
Resolution: Enbridge Pipeline 5
WHEREAS, Pipeline 5, which began operation in 1953 and is now owned by Enbridge, has transported Alberta crude oil and natural gas liquids from Superior, Wisconsin, through 18 Michigan Counties to refineries near Sarnia, Ontario – a distance of 645 miles crossing numerous wetlands, 20 rivers, the Straits of Mackinac, and the St. Clair River at Marysville, Michigan; and
WHEREAS, the State of Michigan and Enbridge are parties to an Easement Agreement requiring Enbridge to operate the pipeline in a reasonable and prudent manner and to guarantee payment of all damages and costs from its operation of said line; and
WHEREAS, the history of pipeline leaks shows that there is a significant risk of severe damage and economic loss to government entities, individuals, businesses, and the environment; and
WHEREAS, we fellow stewards of the gift of Creation strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth; by sustaining the life of the earth we work towards justice and peace among all people; we respect the dignity of every human being and their right to fresh, clean water, which is the stuff of Life; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan hereby urges that our brothers and sisters in faith request that Governor Snyder utilize the State’s authority by acting immediately to cause Line 5 to be restricted to not more than 300,000 bbl per day and its cargo be limited to non-oil products until the recommendations of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force have been satisfied and an independent panel of pipeline experts has verified that Line 5 is safe.
Based on recent news, it seems it’s time for an update. Diocesan Council member Joyce Munro has written the results of her research for us:
When we last reported on the status of Enbridge Energy Partners’ Line 5, the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board had sent a disappointing and incomplete report back to the independent engineering firm Dynamic Risk to revise and complete the study the Pipeline Advisory Board had contracted for. A revised version of the report was submitted by Dynamic Risk to the Board, and the Board released the revised report to the public for comment in November 2017. The Board scheduled three public comment meetings around the state for November.
The revised report has been criticized by environmental groups as incomplete. Attorney Jim Olson, founder and president of the environmental group FLOW writes in Bridge magazine that Dynamic Risk’s revised report “generally defended the conclusions in its draft report” and “again declined to evaluate the full range of alternatives involving the use and improvement of existing pipelines and routes of the overall system across Lower Michigan.”
Both the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board and other environmental groups have criticized the way Enbridge has dragged its feet in releasing information, or, as Dr. Edward Timm, a retired Dow Chemical engineer in fluid mechanics said to the Detroit Free Press, “‘[Enbridge] has been playing cute with all of this documentation’ about pipeline problems, with information rarely coming from the company immediately and of its own volition.’ That, he believes, has led to the recent angrier tone from state officials. ‘They’ve been blindsided so many times on the facts, it’s hazardous for their careers to trust Enbridge any further’ ” See Dr. Timm’s Technical Update Note here.
Then, on November 27, 2017, Gov. Rick Snyder announced that he made an agreement with Enbridge to put into place some safety measures for Line 5, possibly replacing the section of the line that runs across the bed of the St. Clair River south of Port Huron, MI, and Sarnia, Ontario, and perhaps putting the section that runs under the Straits of Mackinac into a tunnel. This was done without consulting with the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board. According to the Detroit News, “Snyder’s office also urged Enbridge to be more transparent after expressing alarm over revelations the company had not been honest about the extent of damage to the pipe’s exterior enamel coating while failing to disclose that engineers have known about it since 2014.” Enbridge did not disclose these problems until October 2017. Meanwhile, the Detroit News reports that Enbridge continues to insist that “the chances of a Line 5 rupture remain low through 2053” when the pipeline would be 100 years old. Although Gov. Snyder says that he will hold Enbridge to account, one wonders why he made an agreement with a company which appears to have been gaslighting, so to speak, the citizens and government of the state of Michigan for years.
At its meeting on December 11, 2017, members of the Pipeline Advisory Board criticized the governor’s agreement, with some members claiming that it does not go far enough and should be amended. Michigan Radio reports that Sean McBrearty of the environmental group Oil and Water Don’t Mix, “called the agreement between Snyder and Enbridge a ‘backroom deal’” and “this undercuts this entire process that the Snyder administration had decided to drag the public through for the last three years.”
Oil and Water Don’t Mix has just set up a website asking Michigan residents and others in the Great Lakes area to endorse their Five Step Plan to Decommission Line 5:
The Five Step Plan to Decommission Line 5
These are the highlights. Read the complete plan here.
- The Attorney General or Governor immediately files a legal action against Enbridge to enforce ongoing violations of the Easement Agreement pursuant to public trust law.
- Governor Snyder directs the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to examine alternatives for providing propane to the Upper Peninsula.
- Governor Snyder directs the MPSC to examine alternatives for transport of light crude oil produced in northern Michigan to refining operations.
- MPSC moves forward with alternatives to meet Michigan’s needs.
- Line 5 is disassembled and removed from the Straits and state has a plan for the removal of the rest of Line 5.
Consider endorsing this plan, or contact your state representative and senator in Lansing (find out who they are here and how to contact them), or give your own feedback to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board here.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” (Psalm 24: 1-2)
Joyce Munro, Resolutions Review Committee, Diocesan Council
Thank you, Joyce, for your desire to keep us informed and your fine reporting! Now it’s up to us to make our voices heard. In Michigan, we should already be acutely aware of the importance of safe water after the tragedy in Flint which will continue to affect the residents of that city for some time. We can’t take chances on the structural integrity of Line 5 and risk an oil spill that would have a far greater effect on the people and wildlife of Michigan. This is what it means to be good stewards of God’s beautiful creation!
Let us pray –
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council