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Government Agencies Failing to Protect Communities, Drinking Water, and Minimize Oil Spill Risk from America’s Most Dangerous Pipeline

Enbridge’s aging Line 5 oil pipeline has severe design flaws, independent engineering analysis and oversight needed.

A new report on Canadian oil giant Enbridge’s 71-year-old Line 5 pipeline in the Great Lakes is a warning sign affirming the dire need for oversight and risk reduction measures.

Nearly 23 million gallons of oil flow daily through two aging pipelines in the heart of the Great Lakes, just 1.5 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge. Constructed in 1953 during the Eisenhower administration, the two 20-inch diameter Line 5 crude oil pipelines lie exposed at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, a busy shipping channel. Calling for greater state and federal oversight over America’s most dangerous fossil fuel pipeline –– located where University of Michigan researchers called the worst place for an oil spill –– the report exposes the inherent design flaws where Line 5 is submerged under the extreme weather conditions in the Straits of Mackinac. Not taking proper precautions could leave the Upper Great Lakes Region in a state of disaster.

New White Paper Warns of Disaster for the Great Lakes

The report states that state and federal agencies have “abrogated their mission responsibilities to protect us from harm” and calls for these immediate measures to increase oversight and transparency of the risks posed by Line 5:

  1. A year-round current monitoring system in the Straits;
  2. An independent and impartial engineering analysis of the risk of continued operation of the transformed pipelines;
  3. An independent external inspection of the transformed structure during this calendar year.

“Enbridge has a disturbing history of faulty infrastructure and environmental destruction,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12). “An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac is a real possibility. There must be independent oversight of Enbridge’s Line 5 until President Biden revokes the presidential permit for America’s most dangerous oil pipeline.”

Last week, the Oil & Water Don’t Mix Coalition highlighted the recent Key Bridge tragedy amid a report from the Detroit News that found an average of 20 shipping vessels per year lose control in the Great Lakes. Compounding this statistic, Enbridge has committed multiple violations of its easement agreement with the State of Michigan to operate Line 5 in the Straits. Originally, Line 5 was approved to be installed directly on the lakebed, but now about 60 percent (three miles) of the twin pipelines are hanging off the bottom suspended by faulty anchor screw supports. The addition of screw anchor supports is making the lines subject to failure, including anchor strikes and extreme currents that could rupture during severe weather events, according to the report.

"The public deserves an honest answer on the state of Line 5’s anchor support system." - Roger Gauthier, retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official and co-author of the report

The current pipeline design is vastly different from when originally constructed and has never been subjected to an impartial engineering analysis of new failure mechanisms, which state agencies should have insisted upon before approving new permits for Enbridge’s Line 5.

“This is about the drinking water for over 40 million people and the health and safety of us residents living at ground zero for an Enbridge oil spill,” said Roger Gauthier, a retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official and co-author of the report. “We’ve already had close calls from anchor strikes and maintenance collisions in the Straits and cannot wait before the next one for proper harm reduction. The public deserves an honest answer on the state of Line 5’s anchor support system.”

Gauthier, who lives near the Straits of Mackinac, serves as treasurer of the Straits of Mackinac Alliance, an organization of shoreline residents who would first be impacted by an oil spill in the Straits. However, an oil spill in the Straits could devastate jobs and economic activity throughout the entire Great Lakes region, with billions of dollars estimated in remediation costs and closures to shipping lanes affecting interstate commerce.

“Line 5’s current experimental design is a recipe for disaster,” said Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for Oil & Water Don’t Mix. “We know that Enbridge has a history of not being exactly truthful in what it tells the public and our government. I know April Fools Day is over, but it’s a complete joke that Enbridge is telling us that Line 5 is in tip-top condition even though when we ask for the data, it refuses to make it available. ‘Trust us’ no longer cuts it from a company that caused the 2010 Kalamazoo River disaster, one of the country’s largest oil spills. Our federal and state regulators have a responsibility to ensure this faulty, aging infrastructure won’t burst and devastate the Great Lakes as we know them.”

Download the Report and Executive Summary

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  • Bill Latka
    published this page in News 2024-04-05 00:19:19 -0400

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