Michigan’s future depends on pipelines

Douglas Stockwell

The time has come for Michigan’s environmental alarmists to listen to reason and admit facts. They’re waging a nonsensical war on pipelines that would jeopardize warm homes, good jobs and economic growth — all while offering alternatives that would actually harm the environment.

Activists are begging local lawmakers to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, which supplies energy to thousands of homes and businesses every year. They claim that a segment of the pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac could leak, contaminating drinking water.

But these activists are woefully misguided. For years, they have slammed the state’s energy industry with over-inflated allegations that pipelines are dangerous. It’s about time they quit their antics.

Enbridge Line 5 has served Michigan for more than six decades. The pipeline supplies propane to heat nearly nine in 10 homes in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan. Detroit refineries process nearly one-third of the oil transported by the pipeline. That same oil supports the city’s thriving auto industry.

Thanks to a slew of safety measures, the pipeline has a pristine record of safety. It is monitored 24/7 by workers and automated devices, and is regularly checked using the most modern inspection tools.

Pipelines like Line 5 keep Michigan running and new pipeline projects are in the works that will provide additional benefits to state residents. The Detroit Metro Access pipeline, for example, will carry 90,000 barrels of refined petroleum through southeast Michigan every day to meet a growing demand for transportation services. The project will also create up to 300 jobs during construction.

Meanwhile, the Rover and Nexus natural gas pipelines will also give Michigan a big boost. The Rover Pipeline, the larger of the two, will carry gas over 713 miles from the Marcellus and Utica shale region across the United States and Canada. Michigan will receive nearly one-third of the natural gas transported by this pipeline.

Nexus will deliver gas from eastern Ohio to southeastern Michigan. Combined, the pipelines will bring 35 percent more natural gas to enter Michigan — decreasing consumers’ energy bills.

They’ll also help the environment. Currently, Michigan uses coal, which produces about twice as much carbon as natural gas, to generate nearly half of its electricity.

Unfortunately, many pipelines are under attack from activists who allege pipelines are unsafe. In December, for example, activists and the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan asked Gov. Rick Snyder to shut down Line 5.

Yet pipelines are by far the safest way to transport fuels. Roadways have 20 times more incidents than pipelines. Railways have over twice has many.

As operating engineers, we are involved with these pipelines from planning to construction and maintenance. Our union trains each operator with safety standards surpassing even the state and federal requirements, and our experience is second to none.

Pipelines have fueled Michigan for decades, and will continue to fuel its growth.

Douglas W. Stockwell is the business manager & general vice president of International Union of Operating Engineers 324.