Five years ago this month, an Enbridge pipeline burst near Marshall, Michigan, sending nearly a million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup of that massive spill is still ongoing. But a new report by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is calling for an end to oil pipelines across an even more sensitive area, the straits under the Mackinac Bridge.
Banning heavy tar sands oil from ever flowing through the aging twin Straits of Mackinac pipelines is one of about a dozen recommendations included in a state task force report on the status and future of Michigan pipelines.
The report, released jointly by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General’s office after a yearlong inquiry, mandates full insurance coverage for the 62-year-old Straits pipelines, owned by Enbridge Energy Inc.
The report also calls for independent assessments of the risk to the Great Lakes posed by the pipeline, and alternatives to its future operation. The pipeline’s days “are numbered,” said Bill Schuette, state attorney general.
The task force has reviewed documents and heard testimony from pipeline owner Enbridge Energy Inc., state university professors, federal regulators, business groups, environmental groups and other concerned citizens.
The report’s key recommendations are:
• Ban transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits pipelines.
• Require an independent risk analysis and full insurance coverage for the pipelines.
• Require an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing pipelines.
• Obtain additional information from Enbridge relating to the pipelines.
So wait, our virtually useless Republican attorney general is actually going to do something to protect the environment? Inconceivable! Or practically so. This is long overdue. In the days following the 2010 spill, it was the Michigan Messenger that broke story after story, including the fact that it was tar sands crude, not conventional crude, that was flowing through that pipeline.
My reporters, Todd Heywood and Eartha Melzer, did some amazing work on every aspect of that story. IIRC, it was Eartha who traced the entire Lakehead pipeline system and figured out that there was also tar sands crude going through a very old pipeline that ran under the Mackinac bridge, where a spill could do enormous damage to the Great Lakes. It’s good to see some action being taken to fix that huge problem, as underwater images of that pipeline shows a great deal of deterioration.