Mackinac Island — Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, 1pm — a group of concerned individuals from across the state of Michigan have just converged at the start of the 2015 Michigan Policy Conference to draw attention to the aging crude oil pipeline known as “Line 5”. Three MICATS organizers disrupted Governor Rick Snyder as he was giving his opening address. One individual, Mariah Urueta, said “To help keep Michigan Pure, shut down Line 5! We do not need another Kalamazoo Oil Spill. Shut down Line 5! And stop the Detroit water shutoffs, those started today too by the way!” Another, Al Smith, unfurled a banner and said “Keep Michigan Pure! Shut down Line 5!”. Others, outside of the Grand Hotel where the conference is being held, chanted and held signs saying “Protect the Great Lakes — Shut Down Line 5!”.
Line 5 is a 62-year-old crude oil pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge, which passes from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula into lower Michigan directly through the pristine freshwaters of the Straits of Mackinac. It has a history of leaks, such as in Crystal Falls in 1999, and in fact leaked liquid natural gas condensate just a few months ago near Manistique. Despite Line 5’s horrible track record, and Enbridge’s deplorable spill history over all, Line 5 is currently not known to have experienced leak directly in the Straits of Mackinac.
When asked about why she was raising awareness about Line 5 at the Michigan Policy Conference, a demonstrator said, “Line 5 is a crime against humanity. To chance spilling so much oil into the largest freshwater drinking supply in the world is inexcusable. We must stop Line 5 before it’s too late!”
Awareness about the threat that Line 5 poses increased significantly around 2013 when despite its age (it’s older than the Mackinac Bridge), Enbridge increased the capacity of the line by 10%. On October 2013, the National Wildlife Federation released a video of an underwater exploration of Line 5 which showed the twin Line 5 pipelines with support struts coming off and hanging in the water. And in July 2014, a study was done by the University of Michigan involving a simulation of how quickly oil would spread through the Great Lakes if a Line 5 spill were to occur.
Despite all this, Line 5 is still pumping oil through the Straits. Enbridge appears to be fighting back with a policy change, through House Bill 4540 (dubbed by some as the “Pipeline Secrecy Bill”), that would prevent concerned communities from finding out about whether Line 5 is even being regulated adequately. A “Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force” has been convened to determine what to do about Line 5; it is chaired by Attorney General Bill Schuette.
The Michigan Policy Conference brings together dozens of legislators in the US and Michigan Senate and House of Representatives as well as countless other select individuals to discuss policy, legislation, and economy for the state of Michigan. The high-class policy conference is incidentally inaccessible to most, as conference tickets are about $2,000-$3,000 per person.
What You Can Do
This is a huge issue and it affects millions of people’s lives. It’s our lives and our environment versus the private profits of a single corporation that destroyed the Kalamazoo River in 2010, and some of their investors and partners.
So guess what!
There’s no cookie-cutter solution to how to stop this pipeline. If there were it would’ve been stopped already. A bunch of concerned folks have come all the way to Mackinac Island to make their voices heard and give Michigan “policy makers” a piece of their mind. Others have spoken out publicly about how Line 5 constantly threatens their livelihood and the beauty of the Straits. A whole bunch of us have come together as an entire coalition to stop this pipeline… get involved at OilandWaterDontMix.org . And MICATS has plans of its own later this summer, stay tuned for more info on how you can get involved!
So we urge you to learn about the issues and do whatever you can think to! We must raise awareness about this constantly looming threat to the Great Lakes however we can.