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Letter: Enbridge Energy cannot be trusted

Re: Brad Shamla’s April 10 column “Oil spill study misses the mark”: Enbridge Energy’s response to a new University of Michigan study illustrates why Enbridge Energy cannot be trusted to safeguard the Great Lakes.

Instead of taking the findings seriously — as one might expect from the company responsible for the largest inland oil disaster in U.S. history — Enbridge shoots the messenger. This is surprising because the University of Michigan study comes from the world’s foremost authority on currents at the Straits of Mackinac, Dr. David Schwab, whose model Enbridge Energy itself relies upon for predicting how an oil spill would disperse.

Enbridge Energy cries that some of the scenarios in the study use unrealistically high volumes of oil, a complaint that flies in the face of the company’s failed response to its oil catastrophe in Kalamazoo, in which it took 17 hours to shut down the pipeline, resulting in more than 840,000 gallons of discharged oil — a response federal investigators compared to the “Keystone Cops.”

Further, a core conclusion of the study is that the amount of oil spilled has surprisingly little impact on how far and wide it spreads. Mackinac Island’s odds of being significantly oiled only declines from 90 percent to 80 percent between the highest (25,000 barrels) and lowest (5,000 barrels) discharge scenarios. Should residents in the Mackinac area take comfort in those odds?

Enbridge complains that the study fails to take into account oil recovery, but that argument cuts both ways. Researchers also did not consider potential high waves, strong winds, ice cover and night-time release scenarios —factors in a “worst case” oil spill that would make oil recovery extremely difficult, if not impossible, leaving Enbridge’s own best-case predictions of 30 percent recovery seem like fantasy.

World-class research institutions like the University of Michigan are shedding light on something that is evident to every person, business, and community which relies on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs and way of life. The risks these pipelines pose are simply too high.

Mike Shriberg

Regional Executive Director, Great Lakes

National Wildlife Federation