Business groups and environmentalists sparred Monday over the safety of a pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan business groups defended Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5, saying it provides crucial energy supplies and is safer for the environment than transporting the oil another way.

Representatives of several organizations, most with ties to the energy industry, said the line should continue to operate with frequent maintenance and close scrutiny, although environmentalists say the 62-year-old segment where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet should be decommissioned.

Shutting down the line “would be short-sighted at best and would in fact be more dangerous and risky for the public and the environment,” Mark Griffin, president of the Michigan Petroleum Association and the Michigan Association of Convenience Stores, said in a phone conference with reporters ahead of a series of public meetings on Line 5.

Doing so would require finding another way to transport roughly 23 million gallons of light crude and liquid natural gas that flow through the lines daily. One result could be putting thousands more oil-hauling tanker trucks on the highways, he said.

Abandoning Line 5 also would “adversely impact” Michigan consumers, according to the alternatives analysis. Upper Peninsula residents who rely on propane to heat their homes could see prices increase between 10 and 25 cents per gallon.

It would cost more for Lower Peninsula oil producers to get their product to refineries in Detroit and Toledo, increasing Michigan gasoline prices by an estimated 2 to 4 cents per gallon.

But dozens of concerned Michigan residents denounced the continued use of Line 5 during a Monday public comment session in Holt on a report about pipeline alternatives. Two other meetings were scheduled in Traverse City and St. Ignace.

The report looked into leaving the lines in place, rerouting them, running them through a tunnel or transporting the oil they carry another way.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has called for a timetable to shut down the underwater pipe segments.

“For the people of Michigan there’s no such thing as an acceptable risk in this case,” said Nancy Shiffler, 68, a retired Ann Arbor schools employee who has volunteered for the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club for 30 years. “It’s too precious of a resource for us.”

Ed Timm, a retired DOW Chemical Engineer, said his own independent analysis of Enbridge reports and other data suggest that a section of the pipe may already be damaged.

He criticized the alternatives report for not including enough data and for using best-case weather scenarios in assessing potential lake current damage.

After reviewing 30-40 hours of underwater pipeline video footage, he said he sees a section “where it looks like the pipe is bent.”

Michael Gerstein, Jonathan Oosting and the Associated Press contributed.


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