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Opinion: Michigan does not need Line 5

Larry Bell

As a brewer of high quality beers, the integrity of our ingredients is of utmost importance to Bell's Brewery, Inc.

Our most important ingredient is pure water, and we depend on the state of Michigan to help ensure its purity. As a result of the massive 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill, the Flint water contamination tragedy and the recent spate of PFAs contamination around the state, Michigan has been gaining a reputation for having bad water. This is not good news for those of us in the brewing business.

That’s why I am so troubled by the Line 5 oil pipelines that lie in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac. The state has a clear responsibility to take all measures to prevent a potential catastrophic Great Lakes oil spill.

A rupture of Line 5, and the resulting contamination of Lakes Michigan and Huron, would cement Michigan's reputation of having the worst water in the U.S., and be devastating for the many of jobs that depend on our Pure Michigan appeal — including those in the brewing industry.

Oil pipeline operator Enbridge moves under the Mackinac Bridge on their way to inspect their controversial Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Using an autonomous underwater vehicle and a roving underwater  vehicle over several days, the entire five-mile-long pipeline, which rests on supports along the bottom of Lake Michigan,will have been covered by both sonar and visual means.

This past spring when a ship’s anchor struck and damaged both pipelines we learned how ill-prepared the state is to address a Great Lakes oil spill. 

Line 5 is out of compliance with many safety requirements, including missing anchor supports that have allowed the pipeline to sag and sway in the currents, missing protective coating that has exposed the pipeline to corrosion, and oil spill cleanup measures that are wholly inadequate for the ice, waves and currents of the straits.

More disturbing is to learn that Canada has given up on plans to build a pipeline in their own country due to oil spill concerns.

Lame-duck Gov. Rick Snyder, with the support of Attorney General Bill Schuette, are now encouraging Enbridge to pursue a tunnel under the straits as a “solution” to the underwater pipelines.

This tunnel for Canada is not a solution at all, as it allows these aging pipelines to remain in operation for at least another decade while the engineering requirements of a five-mile tunnel are considered — continuing the risk of an oil spill.

I recognize that the prospect of new jobs looms large for building a tunnel. But the number of temporary jobs created constructing a tunnel pales in comparison to the number of jobs that would be lost in the event of an oil spill.

This is why I have joined the Great Lakes Business Network, with nearly 100 CEOs all working to prevent an oil spill in the Great Lakes.

Larry Bell is president of Bells Brewery, Inc.