Hundreds of miles of Great Lakes shoreline would be spoiled
under a worst-case scenario oil spill in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac,
scientists reported Thursday.
The cost of a
doomsday spill could be as high as $1.8 billion, including $500 million in
cleanup and $678 million in lost tourism revenue in Wisconsin and Michigan,
A team of
scientists from Michigan universities wrote a 400-page draft report on the
risks of an extraordinary spill from Enbridge Line 5, a 20-inch twin oil
pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which connects lakes
Michigan and Huron at the peak of the Lower Peninsula. A public hearing will
be held on Aug. 13 in Harbor Springs.
The impact of a
spill would be significant, but the scientists cautioned that their analysis
“extends to risks with low probabilities” of occurrence.
Canadian company, has been under scrutiny since 2010, when one of its
pipelines ruptured in southern Michigan, releasing 800,000 gallons of oil
into the Kalamazoo River system. Critics say Line 5, which has been
transporting oil between Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada, for decades, should
be shut down, saying it’s old and could be vulnerable to leaks.
No large oil spill
has ever occurred in the Great Lakes. Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is
expected to determine the pipeline’s long-term future by fall, just a few
months before he leaves office. One option would be putting the pipeline in
a tunnel under the lakebed.
that Line 5 is safe. The company said a 24-hour control center monitors the
pipeline and can shut it down in minutes.
presented in this report are purely hypothetical and the probability of the
events actually occurring is extraordinarily unlikely because Enbridge
operates our pipelines with multiple layers of safety in mind,” spokesman
Ryan Duffy said.
The report says a
Line 5 rupture could release as much as 58,000 barrels Ñ 2.4 million gallons
Ñ of oil and affect hundreds of miles of shoreline in Michigan, Wisconsin
and Canada. Cleanup efforts could be affected by the wind, weather and
It is “possible
that shoreline cleanup operations for a potential spill in the Straits of
Mackinac could continue for months to up to two years following the spill,”
the report states.
A 1953 easement
makes Enbridge liable for damage or loss to public or private property, the
Line 5 carries
light crude oil and natural gas liquids used to make propane. In 2016, more
than half of Michigan’s propane needs were supplied by the pipeline.
“Line 5 cannot
remain in the Straits in its current form,” said Keith Creagh, director of
the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This report highlights the
need to continue developing a decommissioning strategy that protects the
Great Lakes while at the same time maintaining the critical infrastructure
between Michigan’s peninsulas that makes us one state."