An oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac should be shut down.
On this point, most parties now agree — except, we presume, Enbridge Energy Partners, the Canadian company that owns and operates the pipeline.
In this conflict, the cause has found a champion in state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who deserves praise for his efforts to shed light on this looming environmental disaster.
Though the report details and solutions for Michigan’s aging oil pipeline network, it does not make clear how or when a shutdown might occur.
The task force, led by Schuette and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant, released its findings this week. Among its suggestions: prohibiting Enbridge from moving heavy crude through the straits pipeline, requiring Enbridge to share public safety information about the pipeline’s condition, and calling for an independent analysis of the straits with suggested alternatives — presumably, the first step toward shutting down the pipeline. Statewide, the report called for better mapping of existing pipelines and improved safety response.
After the report’s release, Schuette went further, declaring that the pipeline’s days were numbered.
The report and its recommendations convey a sense of urgency. That Enbridge is the pipeline’s operator instills no one with confidence. That company was responsible for a devastating 2010 spill on the Kalamazoo River, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. An oil spill in the straits would be an environmental disaster that would permanently scar our lakes — not just an irreplaceable natural resource, but the source of drinking water for many Michiganders.
But the report’s prescriptions lack the urgency its findings require.
There’s no road map for achieving its recommendations, no clear explanation of which agencies must act. Schuette has made much of the recommendation to bar Enbridge from transporting heavy crude oil through the straits pipeline. But it doesn’t — only synthetic crude flows through the straits pipeline. Yet a spill of synthetic crude would also deal significant environmental damage, particularly during winter, when the lakes are topped with sheets of ice, notes David Holtz, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter.
The Michigan Environmental Council notes that Gov. Rick Snyder, via executive order, can create a permanent pipeline advisory body. Requiring Enbridge to utilize an existing permit-application process — Gail Gruenwald, executive director of Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council told the MEC — would allow the state to set a time line for implementing the report’s recommendations, establish enforcement mechanisms and solicit public input.
We urge Snyder and the Michigan Legislature to move quickly to implement these recommendations, and we devoutly hope Schuette continues to raise his voice in support — or else this report is nothing more than a dire warning of looming disaster.
It’s impossible to understate the importance of protecting our Great Lakes. It’s a charge that transcends party lines. Or at least it should.
This article was from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.