Mary Jane and Larry Helvie, Roscommon area citizens, have been educating themselves and others about the dangers of Enbridge's Line 5 under the Mackinac Straits and have been trying to get it shut down. "This is a no brainer," Larry said. Like many participants at the June 13 meeting of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, the Helvies attend rallies with future generations in mind. Larry added, "If we don’t do it they’ll look at us and say, 'our parents left us a mess.'" (Photos by Diane Miller for Keweenaw Now, unless otherwise indicated.)
ROSCOMMON, Mich. -- When Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board met in Roscommon Monday, June 13, 2016, dozens of citizens showed up to express their concerns about the safety of Enbridge Line 5, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Everyone who spoke challenged the approach the board is taking.
Margaret Pierson and George Formicola traveled from Traverse City to attend the meeting. "Ever since the 2013 Rally at the straits," Pierson said, "I have not been able to sleep another night. Enbridge does not have a great track record."** Pierson is a volunteer with FLOW (For the Love of Water), who makes "almost daily" calls to government officials on this issue. "Although the governor [Rick Snyder] and [Attorney General Bill] Schuette said last July that the pipeline’s days are numbered, what we’re expecting is rhetoric -- more P.R. pieces and more task forces," Pierson noted.
The 16-member board, appointed by Governor Snyder last fall, is comprised of industry, environment, and citizen representatives.***
It was created, according to the Department of Environmental Quality website, to "ensure safety, upkeep, and transparency of issues related to the state’s network of pipelines" as well as to advise state agencies on "matters related to pipeline routing, construction, operation, and maintenance."
The June 13 meeting agenda featured a report from the board’s technical review team. It outlined the results of a request for proposals for two projects: a Risk Analysis, and an Analysis of Alternatives to the pipeline. The team recommended the Risk Analysis be awarded to DNV and the Alternative Analysis to Dynamic Risk.
Some board members express legal and ethical concerns
Board member Guy Meadows, director of the Great Lakes Research Center and Michigan Tech professor, raised two issues about the proposals, including the fact that the study of the pipeline’s risk is recommended to be done by a company "using the Gulf of Mexico as a model" for Great Lakes work, since both DNV and Dynamic Risk are companies that have done their work in oceans.
Guy Meadows, Pipeline Safety Advisory Board member and director of Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, is pictured here with Michigan Tech's environmental monitoring buoy that was deployed on Aug. 18, 2015, in the Straits of Mackinac, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. The buoy is intended to provide real-time environmental monitoring of the water conditions and to improve safety for Enbridge's pipelines under the Straits. (Photo courtesy Guy Meadows of Michigan Tech University)
Meadows also noted the proposals fail to reference live time data that has been available via the buoy Michigan Tech deployed in the Straits last August to study the complex flows in the area of the pipeline.
"Modeling efforts should show this," Meadows said.
Board member Craig Hupp, noting that implementation of alternatives would take five to 10 years "at minimum" suggested that long-range data would be needed. Audience members later indicated that such a long time period is unacceptable
Pictured here at the June 13 meeting are Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board members, from left, John Quackenbush, chair, Michigan Public Service Commission; Craig Pierson, president of Marathon Pipe Line LLC; and Craig Hupp of Bodman PLC.
Board Member Jennifer McKay, policy specialist with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, said that none of the proposals for this work emphasized public engagement (which is one of the stated charges of this board).
As a member of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, Jennifer McKay, policy specialist with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, represents environmental groups.
"I saw no reference to public meetings in either of the proposals," McKay said, noting that the plans would not allow for ample comment time.
Homer A. Mandoka, board member and Council Chairman of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, proposed that the exploration of proposals to assess risk and alternatives to the pipeline include an analysis of conflict of interest (both DNV and Dynamic Risk are involved in projects for Enbridge). Mandoka, who represents tribal governments, also said that the current plan does not have a direct process for consultation with the tribes.
Homer A. Mandoka, Pipeline Safety Advisory Board member and Council Chairman of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, whose ancestral tribal lands include the Kalamazoo River basin, the area of Enbridge's 2010 oil spill, represents tribal governments on the board. His tribe was an integral part of the Kalamazoo River cleanup.***
"I have raised this issue several times," Mandoka said.
Invited guest speaker Catherine Hollowell, Council Member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and member of the National Tribal Operation Caucus-EPA Region 5, spoke further on the legal need for an "articulated consultation policy with Native tribes."
Catherine Hollowell, Council Member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and member of the National Tribal Operation Caucus-EPA Region 5, was the invited guest speaker at the June 13 meeting of Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.
Hollowell said, "Things that aren’t negotiated away in a treaty are retained. We have always had them, and the Federal government has affirmed that treaties are the supreme law of the land."
This means that "actual ways of life are protected," she explained. These ways include a protected right to fish and gather; and a risk assessment needs to include the consequences of a loss of traditional ecological knowledge in the event of an oil spill that ruins spawning grounds, for example.
Audience members speak up
During the June 13 meeting, Michigan Sierra Club Chair David Holtz makes several requests of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board. He asked that the state not compromise the risk and alternative analyses by having them funded by Enbridge. He said the state should be working with all available information in as close to real time as possible; and since it is not clear, in the case of limited liability corporations, who is responsible, or when a company can walk away, Enbridge should not be able to operate without a clear path to holding Enbridge responsible for environmental accidents.
Roger Gauthier, representing the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment, said that the proposal intends to study only four and a half miles despite the fact that the pipeline runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario. He said that there are 60 different communities that have passed a resolution calling on Michigan’s governor to stop pipeline oil delivery through the Straits.****
Jim Olson, president of FLOW (For the Love of Water), reminded the board that government bodies have the duty to prevent and minimize harm to public health and that the decisions made regarding the pipeline could set a precedent for future environmental work. "You stand between the citizens and the government and Enbridge," he said.
Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, cited the 1953 easement, which is "the legal basis for the existence of the pipeline." She said that Line 5 pipeline violations include the absence of supports, the curvature, wall thickness, and the degradation of the pipe, as well as the low value insurance policy on the structure. "The state must never subordinate the needs of its citizens to any private corporation," Kirkwood said. "Since a reasonably prudent person would not operate a pipeline in this condition, the need for action is urgent." She called for halting use of Line 5 as soon as possible.
Kate Madigan, Michigan Environmental Council representative, called for decommissioning the pipeline to protect the 700 miles of vulnerable coastline. Noting that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said 335 days ago that the pipeline’s days are numbered, she said it is time to end the culture of delay and inaction.
Leonard Page of Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment had two suggestions for the board: First, he said, a third-party study of the pipeline could be done this year instead of using the drawn-out process that is making many citizens impatient. "You’re 90 miles short of Ground Zero," Page said. He invited them to visit the Straits -- twice. First, on a beautiful weekend with 30-mile-per-hour winds and four-foot waves, and again in January or February. His point was that if a pipe failed in the winter, ice would make any pipe leak cleanup very complicated.
Tim O’Brien, co-chair of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board and associate director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said that the comments will be carefully considered. The board meets again in Lansing on Sept. 19, 2016.
* Guest writer Diane Miller is a former Keweenaw resident and former Finlandia University communication professor. She now teaches at a community college downstate and attended the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting as a reporter for Keweenaw Now.
**See Keweenaw Now's article on the 2013 Rally at the Straits, "Videos, photos: 'Oil and Water Don't Mix' rally draws hundreds concerned about Great Lakes."
*** Click here to see the original list of Pipeline Safety Advisory Board members appointed last September. Click here to read about the appointment of Homer A. Mandoka to the board as tribal government representative last November.
**** Click here to see the list of local governments and municipalities that have issued resolutions calling for the shutdown of the flow of oil in Line 5.