Esquire – U.S.
What Your Great Lake Needs Is a Leaky Oil Pipeline
Charles P. Pierce, Esquire April 13, 2018
Yes, there are disasters to every point on the compass, and all the way down, too. So many, in fact, that you miss stories like the one hipped to us by the continually invaluable Electablog in Michigan. Apparently, we came within a scary couple of feet of turning the Straits of Mackinac into an irreversible chemistry set. From The Detroit Free Press:
“Submerged cables that carried electricity between Michigan’s two peninsulas were shut down after leaking about 550 gallons of coolant fluid into the waterway that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, officials said Tuesday. Jackie Olson, spokeswoman for American Transmission Co., which operates the cables, told the Associated Press the fluid is a mineral-based synthetic oil used for insulation that can be harmful if released into the environment. Joe Haas, district supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, told the Free Press on Wednesday the cables have been shut down and will be permanently decommissioned.”
This sounds pretty bad but, as the Freep also informs us, it could have been much, much worse. The leak was caused by a ship that sailed through the straits with its anchor deployed. The anchor came into contact with the superannuated power cables, and that’s how we got gallons of benzenes floating free between Lakes Huron and Michigan.
Not far from the underwater power lines is the Line 5 pipeline, owned by Enbridge, that carries oil and natural gas under the straits. You have to know what’s coming, right?
“The same “vessel activity” that appears to have damaged submerged electric cables in the Straits of Mackinac last week, causing a leak of 550 gallons of benzene-containing coolant, may have also caused three dents just discovered in the Line 5 oil and natural gas liquids pipeline, also underwater where lakes Michigan and Huron connect. Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge, which owns and operates Line 5, informed state officials late Tuesday of the dents, characterized as “very small” and posing “no threat to the pipeline,” Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said in a statement Wednesday.”
And why would anyone doubt Enbridge’s devotion to the environment?
These damn pipelines are 65 years old. They are underwater time bombs that inevitably will go off because they are pipelines and pipelines leak. And this one has been a sieve for decades. From MLive:
“Pipelines do not belong in the Straits of Mackinac, period,” said Sean McBrearty, coordinator of Oil and Water Don’t Mix, a coalition of nonprofit organizations, citizens and businesses opposed to oil continuing to flow through the underwater lines. “Our state’s economy, tourism, and way of life revolves around keeping our Great Lakes in a pristine condition. There’s simply too much at stake to keep Line 5 in operation.” Snyder called on Enbridge to accelerate both identification of anchor strike mitigation measures, as well as evaluation of alternatives to replace the Straits pipelines, measures called for in an agreement between Enbridge and state officials last November.”
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that this happened during Infrastructure Week.
Respond to this article on the Esquire Politics Facebook page.