Federal leaders must verify Enbridge’s claims on Line 5

With the news late last month that there are stretches of underwater pipeline that are missing their protective coating in the Straits of Mackinac — a report that line operator Enbridge calls incorrect — it is time for federal officials to act in a commanding and transparent way.

Enbridge claims that documents it posted on its own website and proposed to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for an upcoming analysis of the line in the Straits refer to hypothetical patches of pipeline where the coating is missing. But the report, called the Biota Investigation Work Plan, identifies specific areas where such conditions exist and the language used does not indicate a hypothetical scenario.

Even if you believe Enbridge officials and this is a false alarm, the report warrants further action.

Simply put, no evidence provided by Enbridge officials at this point will convince a growing group of concerned leaders and citizens questioning the more than 60-year-old line’s structural integrity.

Enbridge officials undoubtedly have spent large amounts of money in the last couple of years conducting their own studies and mock spill exercises, while at the same time focusing public relations efforts on convincing the public there is no reason to be concerned about the line.

We certainly don’t think Enbridge wants a spill in the Straits, after all the cost of such an incident would be extreme. Considering the company just finished the cleanup that followed a July 2010 spill near Marshall in the Kalamazoo River, another one in the Straits could do irreparable harm to Enbridge’s reputation, as well.

But that’s one of the reasons we shouldn’t take their word for it, either.

In Petoskey last week for a chamber of commerce event at Stafford’s Perry Hotel, newly elected Congressman Jack Bergman vowed to bring the proper agencies and officials together to ensure the pipeline, commonly referred to as Line 5, is structurally safe. We hope Bergman is successful in doing so.

Officials at the local, state and federal levels along with residents throughout the state and beyond have united across typical political lines in an effort to protect against this type of environmental disaster in the Great Lakes.

Enbridge has done just about as much as it can do to alleviate these concerns. Now is the time for the federal government to step in and seek independent verification of Line 5’s true condition.

— Petoskey News-Review

COMMENTS