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Letters: Line 5 is too risky for Michigan

As a resident of the Upper Peninsula, I take issue with a misguided essay by Douglas Stockwell (“Michigan’s future depends on pipelines,” March 15) regarding the submerged old pipeline crossing under the Straits of Mackinac.

Stockwell calls a group of fact-finders, retired engineers, chemists, business people and serious academics “alarmists.” These are people who recognize the hazard of a 64-year old pipeline crossing lakes and tributaries in Michigan, and crossing under water and ice in the highest risk setting in North America.

Facts from Enbridge are hard to come by in any discussion of their Line 5. That is because the company does not have to publicly reveal what it is transporting in its pipelines, where it is eventually destined, and for what purpose.

The Operating Engineers say that shutting off the risks posed by this aged pipeline jeopardizes warm homes, jobs and economic development. But the economic devastation of a significant spill in the Straits is obvious, it is real, and it trumps any number of jobs that Line 5 oil makes in Michigan.

The people of Michigan are taking all the risk with this obsolete and dangerous pipeline.

Patrick Egan, Brimely

Michigan residents ought to feel offended by both the tone and substance of Douglas Stockwell’s recent op-ed. Two-thirds of Michiganians polled last year said the Canadian oil giant should not be allowed to transport oil through the Straits. Yet Stockwell dismisses the very real concerns as “nonsensical” and “woefully misguided.”

Stockwell’s claim that Line 5 has a “pristine” safety record is simply not true. In fact, there have been at least 15 documented failures on Line 5 since 1988, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

And while there hasn’t yet been a spill that we know of in the Straits from the 64-year-old pipeline—which was designed to operate for only 50 years—Enbridge also touted the safety of its Line 6B pipeline right up until it ruptured and spilled a million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River.

In the near term, pipelines will continue to be part of our energy infrastructure. But continuing to pump oil through the Mackinac Straits in this outdated pipeline is reckless.

Chris Kolb, president

Michigan Environmental Council