enbridge

The Mackinac Bridge on a warmer day.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new bill in Congress would shut down an oil and gas pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac, if a study shows it's a significant risk to the Great Lakes.

Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller introduced the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act on Wednesday.

The legislation calls for a comprehensive analysis of the environmental and economic threat that Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline poses to Great Lakes waters.

Colin McCarthy

There's a more-than-60-year-old underwater pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac. It's called Line 5, and is operated by Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The 2010 spill resulted in the release of about a million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo river. 

A new film follows a pair of Grand Rapids natives on their "fossil fuel-free" journey along the pipeline's 500-mile route. It's called Great Lakes, Bad Lines. 

Filmmaker Paul Hendricks joins us to talk about the film. 

A postcard from 1953 shows Line 5 being installed in the Straits of Mackinac. The group says it's proof the easement wasn't followed in the first place. Enbridge says that's not true.
Oil & Water Don't Mix

Several environmental groups and tribes say Enbridge Energy is operating its oil pipelines under Lake Michigan illegally. They sent a letter to Governor Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and others calling for the immediate shutdown of the twin pipelines.

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign put together a list of what they say are eight violations of the state’s easement with Enbridge.

Back in 1953, the state allowed the pipelines to cross the Straits of Mackinac under this legal contract.

The barge in the middle of the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

An upcoming state senate bill would curb new oil pipelines in the Great Lakes.

Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says he'll introduce legislation this week that would block new pipelines from running through Great Lakes waters.

The bill would also require existing lines to undergo a third-party safety review – including Enbridge's Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Jones says his bill would shut down the 63-year-old line, and others, if the safety review deemed it unsafe.

In 2010, oil spilled into a creek near the Kalamazoo River from Enbridge Line 6b
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


It was April of 2010 when Enbridge Line 6b ruptured, spilling more than a million gallons of Canadian heavy crude oil into a creek near Kalamazoo.

It was the largest inland spill in United States history.

That spill gave Michiganders a very good reason to sit up and pay closer attention to the nearly 3,300 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines that weave through our state, particularly Enbridge Line 5, which runs in the Straits of Mackinac.

The barge in the middle of the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is extending the deadline for bids to study an oil and gas pipeline that runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The pipeline is known as Enbridge Line 5. 

The study will include a risk analysis of the 60-year-old pipeline, and alternatives to shipping oil and gas beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

“The key is, how do we reduce that risk?" said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council. "How do we protect the lakes?”

David Schwab looked at 840 simulated spill scenarios. This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

Enbridge Energy has maintained that their twin oil and natural gas liquid pipelines under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac are safe.

But what if one of them did break open? Where might the oil go?

Today, the University of Michigan’s Water Center released new computer simulations to help answer that question.

David Schwab is a hydrodynamics expert with the Water Center.

“I don’t know any place where the currents are as strong, and change direction as quickly, and as frequently as in the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines runs under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

At the Straits, it splits into two pipelines. Both pipelines are 63 years old (they were installed in 1953).

Right now, we don’t have all the information about the condition of those pipelines. As we’ve reported many times, Enbridge holds all the cards. The company has shared some information with the public, but not a lot.

Gary Peters
User: Gary Peters / Facebook

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D) has two big projects on his plate in an effort to strengthen protections for the Great Lakes and provide funding for the city of Flint in the wake of the water crisis.

The U.S. Senate recently gave unanimous approval to a funding bill that includes important protections for the Great Lakes. The bill re-authorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the federal agency that oversees pipelines.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Recently released information about the condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac shows some signs of corrosion. But company officials continue to say the twin pipelines running under Lake Michigan are safe.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An environmental group says oil pipelines running beneath the Mackinac Straits could be shut down without disrupting oil and propane supplies in Michigan.

Environmentalists say there is enough capacity on other pipelines skirting the Great Lakes to reroute the crude oil currently flowing through Line 5. 

The report says at least 90% of Line 5's oil goes to Canadian refineries, so it's not essential for the Marathon refinery in Detroit.

Enbridge Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

There are many Michiganders feeling uneasy about the idea of those 62-year-old twin oil pipelines running along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.

The aging Line 5 can carry 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids each day.

Enbridge has made promises to keep the pipeline maintained and said it’s got an emergency response team in place, but there’s a complicating factor that no one can control: big, turbulent waves.

Enbridge Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Enbridge Energy and the federal government in a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club over a pipeline running through Michigan state forest land.

According to the Sierra Club, Enbridge ought to have been required to carry out a full environmental impact analysis for the pipeline in 2014 when it took out a new permit. 

Enbridge Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

There's been a lot of concern expressed about Enbridge's oil and liquid natural gas pipelines running under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

But Keith Matheny of the Detroit Free Press reports that an oil spill contingency specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard is more worried about the above-ground section of Line 5 running across the Upper Peninsula.

From Matheny's piece:

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 oil pipeline has lain deep under the water in the choppy Straits of Mackinac for more than 60 years. 

Over the decades, Line 5 has fed billions of barrels of light crude oil and liquefied natural gas into the lower peninsula of Michigan. 

Yet there has never been a drill to test the region’s readiness for a spill from a leak or rupture of the pipe. 

Until now, that is.

Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at how far oil might travel with a 12-hour release in the Straits of Mackinac.
UM Water Center

The scenario: Someone has spotted oil on Lake Michigan in the Straits of Mackinac. They place a call to an emergency response center.

What happens next?

Today, Enbridge and other emergency response officials will test whether their emergency oil spill response plan is effective.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

  MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) - Environmental activists are planning events during the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk to call attention to a number of issues, including a controversial oil pipeline in the area.

A group called We Protect Mother Earth says its protest will feature speeches and a drumming ceremony. It will begin around 9 a.m. Monday at the St. Ignace Welcome Center on the north side of the bridge, where thousands of people will be taking part in the annual holiday walk.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

The state of Michigan has signed a deal with Enbridge Energy that heavy crude oil will not be shipped through a pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

But the agreement doesn’t change anything as far as protecting the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Line 5 wasn’t built to carry heavy crude oil and never has. 

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

In 2010, we were given a pretty good reason to care about how companies maintain the 3,280 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines crisscrossing our state.

Being the state that suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history has that effect.

So people perked up when they found out that Enbridge, the company responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill, owns another pipeline that travels under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

If Michigan has a “crown jewel,” this area might be it.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Enbridge Energy is sponsoring new efforts to monitor waters above its aging pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge is working with the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) out of Michigan Technical University to build and operate a buoy to measure currents in real time. That information will be made available for anyone to view online.

Protesters rallied at the state Capitol on July 30, 2015 demanding that an oil and gas pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac be shut down.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Dozens of protesters rallied at the state Capitol on Thursday against an aging pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

The group delivered a letter addressed to Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette demanding that the pipeline be shut down.

Norris Wong / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Michigan Radio’s senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry and Morning Edition host Christina Shockley discuss a land swap deal between Detroit and the owners of the Ambassador Bridge; the beginnings of a lawsuit over an Enbridge pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac; and how some residents in Hamtramck are getting so fed up with bad roads, they are filling in potholes on their streets themselves. 


The Mackinac Bridge on a warmer day.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The National Wildlife Federation says it’s making plans to sue the federal government.

The environmental group says the U.S. Department of Transportation is not enforcing a law that requires “worst-case” disaster plans for underwater pipelines to be on file.

The confluence of Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in 2010 (left), and in 2015 (right).
USEPA and Mark Brush / USEPA, Michigan Radio

Five years ago today, an oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan split open, starting the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The heavy tar sands oil came from Enbridge Energy's pipeline 6B. The oil flowed into Talmadge Creek and then into the Kalamazoo River.

Riding down the Kalamazoo River on a tube. As part of a settlement with the state, Enbridge built access points to the river. Those who know the river say they're seeing more people enjoying it these days.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history happened right here in Michigan. Now that five years have passed, we checked in with people who were affected by the spill.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 6B broke open on July 25, 2010. The massive oil spill changed life for a lot of people in the small town of Marshall and along the Kalamazoo River.

Kimberly Springer / Michigan Radio

Five years ago, on July 25, 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline burst, causing the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

One of the rumors you can still hear about the incident is that the company must have dumped a surfactant into the Kalamazoo River to help break up the oil. The chemical is called corexit, and it can be harmful to humans.

Regulators and Enbridge deny corexit was ever used for the Kalamazoo spill. But that hasn’t put the rumor to rest.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

People in Michigan are naturally concerned about the thousands of miles of pipelines crisscrossing the state. After all, Michigan suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.  

And there's one pipeline in particular that people are quite concerned about: Enbridge's Line 5 moves more than 500,000 barrels of oil and other liquid petroleum products (like propane) a day under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

UPDATED AT 1:41 pm ON 7/15/15 

Here’s something President Barack Obama and Gov. Rick Snyder have in common: Both were born years after a pipeline to deliver oil was installed under the Straits of Mackinac.

That pipeline, more than four miles of which is actually at the bottom of the lakes, is now 61 years old. Enbridge, the Canadian firm that owns it, pumps as much as 540,000 gallons of oil and liquid natural gas through it every day.

Courtesy of Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the days of an energy pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac are numbered. But, a task force led by Schuette does not recommend that day should come anytime soon.

“You wouldn’t site, and you wouldn’t build and construct pipelines underneath the straits today,” Schuette said at a news conference to roll out the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report. “And so, if you wouldn’t do it today, how many more tomorrows will the pipelines be operational?”

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