Rep. Miller: Shut down Enbridge’s Straits of Mackinac pipeline if deemed unsafe
Washington — U.S. Rep. Candice Miller wants to shut down two fuel pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac if a proposed federal study finds a significant risk the lines will rupture.
The Harrison Township Republican introduced a bill Wednesday that would require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to do an 18-month study of the 63-year-old Line 5 for the risk of an environmentally damaging spill of oil.
More than 500,000 barrels of oil and liquid petroleum products flow daily through the lines.
Miller’s proposed Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act also would mandate the federal government to shut down the line if it is deemed to have a significant risk of rupture.
“Any rupture of Enbridge’s 63-year-old Line 5, which transports 23 million gallons of contaminants a day, would have a catastrophic impact on the Great Lakes, especially if it occurred along the portion that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron converge,” Miller said in a statement.
“Just last month, the University of Michigan Water Center released a study where researchers estimated the impact of a leak in Line 5 under 840 different weather scenarios. According to the study, over 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline could be impacted, and Mackinac Island, Bois Blanc Island, and the coastline around Mackinaw City would certainly be impacted in almost every scenario.”
Enbridge’s operations, including Line 5, have come under increased scrutiny following a rupture in the company’s oil line near Kalamazoo in 2010. The spill sent an estimated 840,000 gallons of heavy crude into the Kalamazoo River.
The Canadian firm Enbridge defends the safety record of the pipelines.
"Enbridge works closely with our federal regulator, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and we would welcome any additional review," said Ryan Duffy, Enbridge’s supervisor of regional communications and media relations.
"Line 5 was built to protect the Straits, and we are committed to continue to protect the Straits through the safe operation of Line 5. That’s why we inspect Line 5 more frequently than required by regulation, monitor the pipeline 24/7 with dedicated teams and work diligently to maintain the pipeline to the highest safety standards."
The group Oil & Water Don’t Mix — consisting of conservation and environmental groups — has described the continued operation of the lines as “an imminent, high-risk infrastructure emergency for the State of Michigan.
“Since 1988, this 63-year-old pipeline has failed at least 15 times, dumping about 260,000 gallons of oil on land and in marshes,” the group says in a petition on its website to Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.
“This pipeline crosses along the bottom of the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac, and through many sensitive inland lakes, rivers and wetlands,” the petition continues. “This pipeline poses an unacceptable risk to our water, ecosystems, health, and economy.”
Miller is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, but is running to unseat Democratic Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco in the fall. She said she is not trying to shut off a source of energy for Michigan and the United States.
“I understand that we need energy, and Canada is the largest foreign energy supplier to Michigan and the U.S., but it is imperative that both countries do everything within their power to ensure we are transporting these products in a way that does not threaten our Great Lakes,” she said.
“In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” Miller continued. “I understand many may consider this to be too drastic and costly a move, but I guarantee the price of inaction will be higher.”