I was wondering how I was going to get a blog written this week since it is Birthday Week in my family! My birthday is Tuesday, my granddaughter Catherine will be 10 on Wednesday and my granddaughter Juniper will be 5 on Thursday! And, joy abounds – I will be able to visit with each of them for their birthdays!! So, as I fretted about how I could get anything written, our friend Joyce Munro sent me an update about Enbridge Line 5 with some new info for us. Truly a birthday gift for me! Here’s what Joyce shares:
Report of August 3, 2018, for Nuts and Bolts Blog, presented by Joyce Munro:
The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan became involved with the issue of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 when Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., joined the other three Dioceses in the State of Michigan on March 9, 2017, and signed a resolution which provides:
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.
Enbridge Energy, a Canadian petrochemical company, owns Line 5, which runs from Superior, WI, to the Upper Peninsula, across the Straits of Mackinac, across the Lower Peninsula, on the bottom of the St. Clair River to Sarnia, Ontario, a total of about 645 miles, 4.5 miles of which rest on the bed of the Straits of Mackinac. It received an easement from the state of Michigan to run the pipeline on the lakebed at the Straits. The line breaks into two pipelines at the Straits and was built in 1953, 65 years ago. After the serious oil spill of Enbridge’s Line 6A into the Kalamazoo River in 2010, Line 5 started to receive scrutiny.
In 2017 a draft report was submitted by a company named Dynamic Risk, which was charged with analyzing a worst-case oil spill scenario of Line 5 into the water at the Straits of Mackinac. The report failed to make that analysis or to answer the questions they had contracted to answer in the report. A conflict of interest was discovered with one of the authors of the report, who was working for Enbridge at the time. The Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Safety Advisory Board scrapped this report in June 2017, fired the contractor, and decided to get a truly independent analysis of the risk of Line 5. Enbridge continued to claim that the line was perfectly safe, but the only proof they presented amounted to little more than “Line 5 is safe because we say it is.”
In late November 2017, Gov. Snyder made an agreement with Enbridge to have the company cover the pipeline. He thus changed the discussion on whether continuing to operate the pipeline was safe to which kind of “tunnel” Enbridge should build over the pipeline section in the Straits. On June 15, 2018, Enbridge released a feasibility report titled “Report to the State of Michigan: Alternatives for replacing Enbridge’s dual Line 5 pipelines crossing the Straits of Mackinac”
On July 20, 2018, an independent report titled “Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines” was released to the public. This report was prepared by “A Multi-organizational Initiative Led by Michigan Technological University for the State of Michigan” under the direction of Professor Guy Meadows of that school’s Great Lakes Research Center.
This 395-page report analyzes nine tasks:
- Task A: Identifying and analyzing the duration and magnitude of a “worst-case” spill or release of oil or other product from the Straits Pipelines into the environment
- Task B: Analyzing the likely environmental fate and transport of oil or other products released from the Straits Pipeline under a worst-case scenario
- Task C: Analyzing how long it takes to contain and clean up the worst-case release
- Task D: Analyzing the short and long-term public health and safety impacts
- Task E: Analyzing the short and long-term ecological impacts
- Task F: Analyzing potential measures to restore the affected natural resources and mitigate adverse impacts upon ecological and cultural resources
- Task GI: Estimating the amount of natural resource and other economic damages, public and private, that would result from a worst-case release
- Task H: Estimating the governmental costs that would be incurred as a result of a worst-case release
- Task X: Broader impacts
Although some organizations and commentators claim that the parameters of a “worst-case” scenario in the report are not stringent enough, this report provides a great deal of information. The report clearly sets out the assumptions made in modeling various pipeline failures, including those as a result of potential terrorist attacks. The report follows the definition of “worst case scenario” as set out in the Code of Federal Regulations [49 CFR 194.105(b)] for oil spills. It models a range of primary potential sources of pipeline failure, including corrosion, cracking (from defects or fatigue), spanning-related stress, third-party damage, and incorrect operation (over pressure/hammer shock). It also analyzes five tiers of failure levels.
The report conducted 4,380 dispersal simulations to predict where the spill would travel. Depending on the season, a full rupture spill could cover beaches on Lake Michigan up to 711 km along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron (71). Nevertheless, the report states that “there is no single scenario for fate and transport that can be unequivocally identified as the ‘worst case’” (79).
The Appendices to this Report contain the results of the calculations and models. It also includes actual historic response times and the number of barrels of oil or liquid propane leaked (A8-A11), showing that response to leaks can be very slow: it took Enbridge 17.3 hours to respond to the 2010 Marshall leak on the Kalamazoo River, by which time 20,082 barrels of crude oil had been discharged. Factors contributing to response times include human error; employees monitoring Enbridge Line 6A at Marshall at first thought the leak data meant that the pipeline was clogged, so they first increased the pressure through the line, causing a larger spill. Human error was also a main contributing cause of BP’s Deepwater Horizon leak and explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on 4/20/10. Among other problems, workers there had shut off the safety alarms linked to the blow-out preventer and other preventive systems because they were tired of hearing them go off. Sadly, they paid with their lives when the platform exploded. Criticism of the Independent Report focuses on the 10-minute response time assumed in the calculations.
The Appendix also includes maps showing the maximum oil dispersal rates under various scenarios (pp. 2-22), some of which show extensive coverage of beaches and shoreline.
The Independent Report also estimates the economic cost of a worst-case scenario spill at almost $2 billion, it would endanger 47 species, and could cover 437 miles of shoreline. Apparently, Enbridge is willing to assume that risk, although a company spokesman dismisses the results of the Independent Study as “hypothetical.” The question is whether those of us who live in Michigan are willing to assume the risk to our water, fishing, and recreation industries of a 65 year-old pipeline.
The report was prepared with care and detail that prior reports on risks to the Straits from a Line 5 spill were not. It demands our attention; we can no longer ignore the risks and we can no longer listen to Enbridge’s “trust us” tactics. The information is there for the residents of Michigan and the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Safety Advisory Board to recommend that Line 5 be shut down.
The final section of the report, “Broader Impacts” covers the qualitative effects of a serious spill for Native American groups in the area. It notes that
Michigan’s Tribal Nations share a collective concern over the existence and continued use of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. Lake Michigan is part of the identity of these Tribal communities. The belief that “Water is Life” speaks to the sacredness that the freshwater within the Great Lakes holds for Tribal communities. (388)
Here are some action items that we urge you to adopt:
- Post your comments on the DEQ website: Attend a public hearing on August 13, 2018, at 6:00 PM at the Boyne Highlands Convention Center in Harbor Springs [not convenient for us in EDOMI!].
- Read the executive summary of the Draft Report [it is only 34 pages] at
- Ask your state representative and state senator to demand further public hearings and a longer public comment period on the report.
- Email the Governor Rick Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at O. Box 30013. Lansing, MI48909 or telephone him at 517-373-3400 or 517-335-7858. Ask for more robust public comment venues and a longer public comment period.
- Go to websites of local environmental organizations such as oilandwaterdontmix.org and www.flowforwater.org/ for information on meetings and citizen actions sponsored by those groups.
Thank you, again, Joyce, for some excellent coverage of this very serious concern – especially in a year with a gubernatorial election. The Bishops of our Michigan dioceses recognized how important significant restrictions on Line 5 is for the future of our state and her people, our natural resources, our recreational economy, and the Great Lakes. Please take some time to let your voice be heard.
Let us pray –
God of the universe,
we thank you for your many good gifts –
for the beauty of Creation and its rich and varied fruits,
for clean water and fresh air, for food and shelter, animals and plants.
Forgive us for the times we have taken the earth’s resources
for granted and wasted what you have given us.
Transform our hearts and minds
so that we would learn to care and share,
to touch the earth with gentleness and with love,
respecting all living things.
We pray for all those who suffer as a result of our waste,
greed and indifference,
and we pray that the day would come when everyone has enough
food and clean water.
Help us to respect the rights of all people and all species
and help us to willingly share your gifts
today and always. Amen. (Fiona Murdoch, Eco-Congregation Ireland)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council