Snyder and Schuette need to protect the Straits

Mariah Urueta

Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette are allowing Enbridge, a Canadian company, to recklessly operate Line 5, a 63-year-old oil and gas pipeline, beneath the Straits of Mackinac and throughout Michigan.

Federal and state regulators do not require Enbridge to communicate safety information with the public, including people living with these pipelines running through their property. Enbridge touts that Line 5 is “completely safe” and it has no reason to think there will be any foreseeable issues with the line. But multiple accidents and spills along the line, some recent and others going back more than 30 years, speak otherwise.

Concerned citizens of Michigan are fed up with the state’s inaction. A recent report by Oil & Water Don’t Mix shows that Enbridge’s 1953 easement agreement rules are being broken. This includes multiple easement violations like cracks, dents, corrosion and structural defects in the twin oil pipelines.

Line 5’s inland portions cross through 11 tributaries, and the U.S. Coast Guard stated that only 30 percent of oil would be recovered in the event of a spill. Attempts to recover oil would not be made at night or if there are rough conditions in the Straits, and the attorney general’s office calculated that the cost to clean up a spill during winter months would be $1 billion. A leak anywhere along the line would be devastating to “Pure Michigan.”

Since November, over 50 communities across the state of Michigan have taken action and called on Snyder and Schuette to stop the flow of oil in the Straits of Mackinac, and our work will not be over until Line 5 is permanently shut down.

The public outcry from more than 50 townships, cities and counties should be acted on accordingly by our public officials, the people who are elected and paid by us to ensure public health and the safety of our Great Lakes. Concerned citizens across the Great Lakes region have been putting pressure on the governor and attorney general to use their authority under the Public Trust Doctrine and Act 10, P.A. 1953 to prevent an environmental and economic disaster and to do this by shutting down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

In addition, the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, an inter-tribal organization representing all 35 federally recognized tribes located in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa, called for the immediate closure of Line 5. To protect seven, or even one generation ahead, our elected officials must start to think critically and act accordingly.

Thankfully, there are some state lawmakers who are working to protect the Great Lakes and Michiganders from the threat posed by Line 5. State Reps. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Claire Shores, and Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and state Sen. Steve Bieda have introduced resolutions calling on the governor and attorney general to shutdown Line 5.

Sadly, these resolutions are awaiting hearings in committee.

Michiganians have been taking action because we know that these dented, cracked and rusted old pipelines won’t last forever. As legal public trustees of our waters and bottomlands, Snyder and Schuette need to enforce the 1953 easement and immediately shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill.

Mariah Urueta is an organizer for Food & Water Watch.