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Howes: Why aren’t more Michigan business leaders expressing concern about Enbridge’s Line 5?

Nov 16, 2017

It’s been a steady drip-drip-drip of revelations from Enbridge Energy about its Line 5 — the oil and gas pipelines running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The latest revelation is that there are more spots where the protective coating has worn off — lots more spots, even though a year ago we were told there weren’t any coating gaps.

The latest admission from the Canadian energy company drew a quick response from a plainly exasperated Governor Snyder, who called Enbridge’s “lack of transparency” to be “deeply troubling.”

But what are we hearing from Michigan's business leaders?

Daniel Howes, ​Detroit News business columnist, joined Stateside to give his take on the situation.

Engineering concerns

“It could be a very minor thing and they can get it handled and it would be taken care of, or it finally gets to a situation where the pressure gets great enough that the line needs to get replaced,” Howes said. “Well, how does that happen? What does it cost? How does it impact customers?”

Howes said that the line has been there longer than “the bridge has gone over the Straits of Mackinac,” and engineering has changed in the last 60 years. Not only are there questions about what might replace the line, but also questions of how it will be addressed.

“This is a very complicated thing that has major implications potentially, not just for the environment, but for the business community, for a lot of people who work in these businesses in the state, and for the quality of life that we have here,” Howes said.

Business concerns

“This is a big business stake. It’s got a lot of big industries that still consume a lot of fossil fuels to run their business,” Howes said, "And, frankly speaking, the car industry that has defined that state for 100 years, still relies … on burning fossil fuels to move its product.”

Howes sees this potentially impacting many sectors of Michigan’s economy, including tourism, transportation, and the refineries.

Environmental concerns

“Whether we like it or not, Michigan is, in a lot of ways, the custodian of the Great Lakes,” Howes said, “and it needs to reflect that in its policy, and its business community needs to reflect that with its priorities.”

Listen above for the full conversation.

In full disclosure, Enbridge Energy is a financial supporter of Michigan Radio.

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