POLLY SCHLAFF: Pipeline 5’s risks far outweigh its benefits

TO THE EDITOR:

I’m writing in response to John K.Wilson’s letter on July 31st in which he advocated for the continued operation of a pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Owned by Enbridge, a Canadian company, Pipeline 5 originates in northwestern Canada, cuts south through Michigan and returns to Ontario, Canada.

Mr. Wilson characterized those calling for the shutdown of Line 5 as fear mongers, who overplay the risk of the pipeline and unconscionably attack Michigan’s economy. These accusations are simply not true. Many well-informed, loyal Michigan residents, including business owners like himself, believe that the pipeline’s risks far outweigh its benefits.

Michigan citizens have reason to fear an oil spill from Enbridge. In 2010, the company was responsible for a pipeline break in Marshall, Michigan that went undetected for nearly 17 hours, saturating 40 miles of the Kalamazoo watershed and becoming the largest, most costly inland oil spill in U.S. history. This is just one of many Enbridge spills, including 220,00 gallons that gushed into a marsh near Crystal Falls, Michigan in 1999.

Furthermore, although Mr. Wilson claims that the pipeline has operated safely for 60 years and is perhaps the “most inspected, highly monitored pipeline in the world,” he fails to mention that the pipeline is 14 years beyond its 50 year lifespan and that much of recent pipeline maintenance is the result of stipulations placed on the company, following the Kalamazoo oil spill and Enbridge’s $177 million settlement with the U.S. government.

Independent inspections of Pipeline 5 are alarming, showing exposed bare metal where anti-corrosive coating is missing, and long spans of unsupported pipeline, encrusted in zebra mussels. The State requires supports for the pipeline every 75 feet beneath the Straits. Company documents show that Enbridge violated this requirement over 200 times in past years, taking as long as 10 years to restore necessary supports.

Mr. Wilson writes about the thousands of trucks necessary to transport oil should Pipeline 5 be decommissioned, but he fails to mention that 90% of the 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas that run under our Great Lakes end up in Canadian refineries for the benefit of Canadian workers and the Canadian economy. The pipeline’s contributions to Michigan’s energy needs are negligible, and the pipeline’s pathway through our state unnecessary.

The livelihood of Mr. Wilson’s employees revolves around the survival of pipelines. His concern is understandable, but consider that Michigan’s tourism industry provides 214,000 jobs annually. According to a 2016 University of Michigan study, a spill could impact up to 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. Should this occur, Michigan would no longer attract the millions that visit our state every year. For this reason, over 250 local business oppose the pipeline.

Join our Michigan business leaders in urging Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to remove Pipeline 5 from our Great Lakes.

Polly Schlaff

Manistee

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