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Snyder takes important step on straits pipelines, but more work ahead


Gov. Rick Snyder today took an important step toward protecting Michigan’s communities and waterways from oil spills by issuing an executive order that creates a Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

The 15-member panel will “ensure safety, upkeep and transparency of issues related to the state’s network of pipelines. It will also be charged with advising state agencies on matters related to pipeline routing, construction, operation, and maintenance,” the governor’s office said in a news release.

While the group will look at pipelines across the state, a particular focus will be the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Owned by Enbridge and more than six decades old, the twin pipelines every day push 23 million gallons of oil through the heart of the Great Lakes.

The panel includes state officials, industry representatives, environmental advocates and others. MEC is pleased that the board includes Jennifer McKay from member group Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; Mike Shriberg of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, a strong partner group; and Chris Shepler of Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, a local business owner who has been outspoken on the need to prevent an oil spill in the straits.

“This new advisory group will provide an important forum for state leaders, water-protection advocates and others to work directly with Enbridge toward a solution that keeps oil out of our Great Lakes and inland waters,” said Chris Kolb, MEC president. “I see an opportunity here for the conversation about Line 5 to become more open and transparent, and for Enbridge to provide clear information about the condition of its pipelines.

“This is a good first step, but there’s still a lot of work to do. I encourage the Snyder administration to take additional measures right away to protect our environment and local economies from the disastrous impacts of an oil spill, and to set aggressive timelines for meaningful action,” Kolb added.

The executive order was among a handful of immediate steps MEC urged the administration to take following the release of recommendations issued by the Michigan Pipeline Safety Task Force. (That group was dissolved after issuing those recommendations. Several of its members are part of the new advisory board.)

Additional steps MEC urged the administration to take—and still hopes to see implemented quickly—are:

  • Require Enbridge to establish and maintain interim insurance or bonding of not less than $500 million pending the analysis of risk and adequate financial assurance.
  • Require local, on-the-ground, immediately available emergency response resources for the straits pipelines.
  • Require more frequent monitoring of the Straits of Mackinac pipelines both internally and externally.
  • Require disclosure of Line 5 inspection reports.

Today’s announcement was a welcome step forward, but this is no time to pause—particularly with thick winter ice cover in the straits just months away. Michigan’s leaders should continue moving forward with a sense of urgency to implement the measures above.

And, ultimately, they should eliminate this unacceptable threat by stopping the flow of oil through the Great Lakes.


 Photo courtesy Jodi Grove via Flickr.

  1. Jerry Renning MCATS Chairman #

    Ecology center,

    There is another proposed pipeline the Nexus Pipeline that will be even closer as it comes up from Kensington Pa to Willow Run and then continues on to Canada it’s eventual destination.

    Although it is currently a 42″ high pressure natural gas pipe line MCATS concerns are that it will eventually attract fracturing.

    We will get you a MCATS Fact Sheet as soon as we have finished and approved it. We have not produced one in 25 years I believe.

    Jerry Renning MCATS Chair

    September 5, 2015
  2. James Osborn #

    This is welcome news. While Michigan needs pipelines, and they therefore must at some point cross waterways, be it a creek, river, or a Great Lake, the pipeline companies hide behind the inadequate Federal standards. The worst amongst them is allowing a “smart pig” inspection every 5 years, even if a pipeline is 50 or 60 years old. Just as an elderly person goes to the medical doctor for check ups much more frequently than a teenager, so should an elderly pipeline that is rusting be inspected more frequently.

    Likewise, shut off valves should be required more often than 15 or more miles, and pressure monitoring taps should be required at critical placed. Where I live, a 60 year old oil pipe line crosses a creek that feeds into the Raisin River. I am also concerned about the backyards in our subdivision.

    Earlier this summer, near Santa Barbara, a similar pipeline burst and ran into the ocean. They, too, followed the weak federal guidelines. If for any reason the pipeline companies hide behind the ICC, then I hope that the Gov. will use his leadership and have other governors to convince their state congressional delegations to change federal law.

    September 5, 2015

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