Enbridge, Environmentalists Spar Over Mackinac Straits Pipeline

Oil company says they’re taking precautions to preserve pipeline

What would happen if the oil pipeline beneath the water in the Straits of Mackinac suddenly starts leaking? Some researchers and elected officials say an oil leak along the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline would be catastrophic for much of the Great Lakes waterways. And, they say, the risk of a spill from the old pipeline is too great to warrant continuing a flow of oil between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

But Enbridge officials say the are confident the pipeline is in good working order, and that the company is going above and beyond to check its functionality. Just last week the company upped its emergency response budget by $7 million, and they held a series of community meetings to answer questions from concerned residents in the area.

Stephen Lloyd, senior manager of emergency response at Enbridge Inc. speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the controversy surrounding Line 5. 

“There’s a lot of work in maintaining a pipeline,” says Lloyd, “and really the work we’ve been doing…with emergency management…is all part of continual improvement.” 

Regarding a potential spill or breakage in the pipeline, Lloyd says, “shoreline impact would be minimized in the unlikely case of a release.”  He also says, “as long as [the pipeline] is maintained properly…like the bridge…it has an indefinite lifespan.”

Henderson also speaks with Mike Shriberg, regional executive director at the Great Lakes Regional Center with the National Wildlife Federation. Shriberg says, “Michigan could get all of its existing oil through pipelines that don’t go through the Straits,” and says that overall “The quality [of the Great Lakes] is improving but we have [a] new set of threats.”

Click the audio link above to hear the entire conversation.