Friends of the Jordan calls on Governor Snyder to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

An oil spill in our Great Lakes would be devastating to our environment, wildlife, communities and economies. The bottomlands of the Straits are owned by the State of Michigan and leased to Enbridge. Governor Snyder has the right and the duty to protect our water and shut down this line before a catastrophic spill occurs.

Friends of the Jordan is one of a growing number of environmental groups, businesses and municipalities who believe the risk of an oil spill in our Great Lakes is too big a risk to take. A full up-to-date list of names opposing this pipeline can be found on the website www.oilandwaterdontmix.org.

Line 5, a 63-year-old pipeline owned by Enbridge, runs from Superior, Wisconsin, across the UP, under the Straits, through lower Michigan, and crosses the St. Clair River near Port Huron into Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge is using Michigan as a shortcut to transport oil from western Canadian oil fields to their refineries in Ontario. This line threatens not only Lakes Michigan and Huron, but 45 other waterways and numerous communities as well.

Governor Snyder appointed a Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force in 2014 which spent one year studying this issue and concluded that the pipeline is a huge risk and requires immediate action. Attorney General Bill Schuette stated that Line 5 would never be built under the Straits today and stated that its days are numbered. However the only action to have come out of this study is to appoint another Pipeline Safety Advisory Board to conduct yet another study – which won’t be completed until Dec. 2018. We cannot afford to wait for endless studies.

The pipeline may have been built using state-of-the-art technology available in 1953. However, nothing lasts forever. The pipeline life expectancy was 40-50 years. 63 years of buffeting currents, corrosion, and encrustation of zebra and quagga mussels have taken their toll on the pipelines. The flow of oil has been increased 80% over the original maximum capacity, further stressing the aging pipes.

It is not a matter of “if”, but of “when” these pipes spring a catastrophic leak.

It is not hard to imagine what that would do to our economy, no matter where in the state we live – 1 out of 5 jobs in Michigan rely on fresh clean Great Lakes water.

A University of Michigan study in 2014 stated that the Straits are the “worst possible place” for an oil spill in the Great Lakes because of the powerful currents which shift directions regularly.

The US Coast Guard Commander testified before Congress in 2015 that they would be unable to respond effectively to an open water oil spill in the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard also stated that if waves in the Straits are higher than 3 feet, or if it is dark (at night), they would not put people on the water to recover oil. There is no real plan for how to recover oil if the leak occurs in winter when the lakes are ice-covered.

According to state officials, if a spill occurred, it would take 72 hours to gather response crews and equipment to begin a cleanup.

Last September Enbridge conducted a spill response drill in the Straits. It was a sunny, calm day, and all equipment was already on site. The drill was deemed a success. Charles Usher, head of Marine Pollution Control defined what that means - a cleanup is considered a success if 30% of the oil can be recovered. In other words, in a best-case scenario 70% of the oil would never be cleaned up!

Enbridge is responsible for the worst inland oil spill in the country in 2010 when over 1 million gallons of tar sands crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River watershed. It took Enbridge 17 hours to shut down the line and stop the flow of oil. 38 miles of river were contaminated, devastating sensitive ecosystems. Toxic vapors sickened people in nearby communities. Cleanup costs have reached over 1 billion dollars, and today, 6 years later, there is still oil in the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge claims the Line 5 pipeline is in excellent condition, and yet they refuse to release inspection data to the public or the State for independent verification. What we do know is that their track record on oil spills is worsening, going from an average of 50 spills per year through 2004, to over 90 spills a year from 2010 - 2014.

Aging, deteriorating pipelines and injection wells threaten our water all over the state, including in the Jordan River Valley. It is a problem which must be addressed. We call on our elected officials to prioritize a transition to renewable energy such as wind and solar, conservation and energy efficiency. Friends of the Jordan stands in solidarity with everyone fighting to protect our water because an injury to one is an injury to all, and all our watersheds are in danger. The only way to protect our environment, rivers, drinking water, communities and economy is to stop subsidizing gas and oil industries and start prioritizing and manufacturing solar and wind energy.

Board of Directors, Friends of the Jordan River Watershed