Snyder should retire Line 5 beneath Mackinac Straits

The Associated Press reported Monday that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder refused to halt the flow of crude oil through twin pipelines in a Great Lakes waterway as they are inspected for gaps in exterior coating, saying there was no imminent threat of a spill.

Snyder cited the potential for a shortage of propane needed for winter heating if a temporary shutdown was enforced, noting in a letter, “With all respect, I do not believe an immediate and extended shutdown of the pipeline in the middle of the winter is a proper approach that safeguards the health and welfare of Michigan citizens.”

Keep in mind, Enbridge has acknowledged the pipelines have numerous spots with missing coating and bare metal. Some have been fixed and inspections will continue this spring, spokesman Ryan Duffy said.

Mike Shriberg, a board member and Great Lakes regional director for the National Wildlife Federation, said Snyder’s response “appears to be kicking the can down the road while the Great Lakes remain at risk.”

He seems to have a point. After all, this is not a permanent shutdown that is being discussed, but a temporary halt to assess the condition of the pipeline’s coating and metal. Realistically, even if the temporary halt did lead to a slight shortage in propane — that would still be worlds better than a potential oil spill into the Great Lakes.

In the article, Snyder said he would ask Enbridge to push back an Aug. 15 deadline for deciding the long-term fate of the underwater Line 5 segment to Sept. 30 to accommodate a risk analysis being conducted by marine engineer Guy Meadows of Michigan Tech University, which is scheduled for completion in mid-September.

Shriberg said the delay wasn’t justified.

“The state’s failure to produce a timely and effective risk and alternatives analysis should not be an excuse for defensiveness and inaction,” he said.

In addition, a resolution was presented to target a provision in the agreement requiring a temporary halt of the oil flow whenever storms produce waves at least 8 feet high for longer than an hour. The resolution called for a shutdown when sustained waves are at least 3 feet high.

Responding to the resolution, Snyder said no bad-weather shutdown of Line 5 had been required before last November’s bargain was struck and the agreed-on provision required lengthy negotiations. Reopening the issue “would be extremely unlikely” to yield tougher terms, he said.

Snyder’s run as governor is winding down. And leaving the Line 5 issue unresolved isn’t the right thing to do.

This issue should be resolved before he leaves office.

— The Mining Journal (Marquette)

COMMENTS