By Barbara Stamiris
Rep. VanderWall’s Feb. 18 op-ed implores Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reverse her shutdown order for Line 5. He begins, “Since 1953, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline has delivered energy sources Michigan needs.”
Line 5 was intended to last 50 years, a tunnel would keep this time bomb ticking into its 70s.
Regarding Michigan needs, Canadian energy analyst Dr. Warren Mabee said on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “In this case we need that oil. The U.S. doesn’t really gain any benefit ... Most of it is just traveling through their country in order to feed into our system.”
In June 2020, the EPA fined Enbridge $6.7 million for repeated safety violations. In July of 2020 one leg of Line 5 was shut down 83 days due to twisting damage on one of the 200 remedial support structures. In November 2020 Gov. Whitmer ordered Line 5 be shut down by mid-May 2021 to protect the Great Lakes.
VanderWall cites the incurable problems and safety issues that caused Gov. Whitmer to call for decommissioning Line 5. He reasons Line 5’s poor condition supports building a tunnel. This is faulty on many levels.
The tunnel Enbridge proposes to build housing a replacement for Line 5 would be bored under the old pipeline — while it carries oil. Tunnel expert Brian O’Mara raised the danger of a sinkhole forming because of unconsolidated bottomlands in this location. So, the tunnel project carries immense risk.
VanderWall also believes “Line 5 is critical to Michigan’s economy.” Yet Michigan’s economy and millions of jobs depend on the pure waters of the Great Lakes, which Line 5 risks.
The most egregious flaw in VanderWall’s argument is it doesn’t take into account the decade or so it will take for a tunnel to be finished. An analogy: your family must board a 68-year-old airplane daily, although its intended lifespan was 50 years. The plane is in good shape, according to its owners. The design of the landing gear was changed because the struts were giving way under high winds. The new design wasn’t approved. When remedial supports structures were installed, it made the plane less stable. New problems resulted when the supports scraped away brake safety coatings, but this was covered up for three years by the owners.
In 2020 one of the supports twisted out of shape, causing an 83 day grounding. Although the cause of the damage remains unknown, the feds said it looked OK and could fly again. You are told a new plane will be built as soon as it’s approved and in 10 years or so, you can put your family on the new plane. But for the next 10 years, they must fly in the aged plane — every day.
The owner called the shots until recently. Now the governor says this plane must be permanently grounded by May 2021. The owners defy this order and sue to keep the old plane flying until the new one is ready.
Is your family safe? Are the Great Lakes safe? Should a Canadian corporation be allowed to risk our lakes for its profit?
About the author: Barbara Stamiris, of Traverse City, is a long-time environmental activist. She testified before Congress in 1983 about safety issues at the nuclear plant in Midland, Michigan. She was named Volunteer Environmentalist of the Year in 2019 by the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council.