Friday, February 05, 2016

Oil and Water Don't Mix: More time needed to examine proposals on future of Enbridge Line 5 in Mackinac Straits

[Editor's Update: The deadline for comments on the documents mentioned below has been extended to Feb. 16, 2016. Click here for info.]

A coalition of community groups, organizations and businesses concerned with the threat of Enbridge Energy Partner’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac has criticized the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General’s office for giving the public less than a week to examine crucial documents that will be used to decide the future of the controversial oil pipeline. The Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition is asking the state to extend the time for public comment from 5 days ending today, Feb. 5, to 30 days.

The Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition has made it possible for the public to comment by using a form on their Web site.*

At issue are more than 20 pages of documents called "Independent Risk Analysis" and "Independent Alternatives Analysis" for the Straits pipelines, which Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the MDEQ announced Monday, Feb. 1, along with a deadline of today, Friday, for public comment. The documents will be used in the hiring of consultants to undertake the studies and examine alternatives to Line 5 in the Straits.

Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech University's Great Lakes Research Center and adjunct professor in geological and mining engineering and sciences, who is a Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board member, told Keweenaw Now the advisory board began considering these documents last October.

"The advisory board began considering the Independent Risk and Alternatives studies last October with members providing valuable and thoughtful input to the process," Meadows said today. "Similar input from the public is also sought and encouraged."**

However, several citizen groups have objected to the short notice given to the public -- with only five days to comment. 

"You can’t claim to want the public engaged or that you are being transparent and then turn around and give folks just five days to respond to proposals critical to the future of the Great Lakes," said David Holtz, Chair of the Michigan Sierra Club Executive Committee. "These documents will determine what is on the table and what isn’t when it comes to decisions about the future of Line 5. Enbridge and other insiders have had these documents for many weeks. We think the public should have the same opportunity as the oil industry to weigh in on them."

Sierra Club is one of 24 organizations that have endorsed the Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition’s goal of ending the flow of oil through the Straits and keeping oil out of the Great Lakes.The coalition also has the support of more than 200 businesses and 15 local governments.

"What happens with these documents will affect the lakes for generations to come, and Michiganders deserve a fair chance to have their say," said Lynna Kaucheck, Senior Midwest Organizer for Food and Water Watch. "The health of our Great Lakes hinges on decisions about Line 5."

The citizens groups say the state’s draft documents fall short in key areas, including the following:
  • Too little attention is paid to public health. Short- and long-term human health impacts from exposure to airborne chemicals released during oil spill recovery must be examined as well as the affects of an oil spill on drinking water sources.
  • The proposed analysis of the economic impacts of an oil spill fall short of being comprehensive. Any economic impact assessment must include impacts on Great Lakes waters, aquatic and wildlife resources, drinking water supplies on the U.S. and Canadian sides, tourism, shipping, sports and commercial and recreational fishing, and tribal fishing rights. An economic impact analysis that fails to even consider the Great Lakes as a public trust resource is not credible.
  • There must be a detailed section based on a credible worst-case scenario of a Line 5 pipeline rupture that examines methodologies used by other high-hazard industries and includes assessing the cumulative impacts of small, undetected leaks.
The Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition has called on the state to immediately halt the flow of oil through the Straits while a state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board examines alternatives, which is expected to take months if not years to complete.

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water), said the need to eliminate the Line 5 risk to the Great Lakes is urgent.

"It seems the state is trying to rush these documents through because they rightly recognize the urgency of dealing with the Line 5 threat," Kirkwood said. "That’s why we think it’s prudent to stop the flow of oil through the Straits now and undertake a thorough, comprehensive review of permanent alternatives. Short-changing that by cutting out the public’s role isn’t likely to lead to a good outcome for the people of Michigan."

Kate Madigan of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) adds MEC favors the alternative of decommissioning Line 5.

"Michigan’s future is reliant on the health of the Great Lakes, and the state’s primary responsibility here is to protect the Great Lakes, our public health, drinking water supplies and economy from a catastrophic oil spill."

* Click here to comment immediately to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the MDEQ using the form from Oil and Water Don't Mix.

** Click here to learn about the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

Editor's Note: Unfortunately we only learned of this 5-day comment period today, Feb. 5. It was announced by Attorney General Bill Schuette's office on Feb. 1.

Inset Photo: Oil and Water Don't Mix sign held at Sept. 6, 2015, protest near Mackinac Bridge against Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

No comments: