10 takeaways from report on "Line 5" Great Lakes pipeline

Jun 29, 2017

A company hired by the state of Michigan has released a 337-page report on alternatives to Line 5, the controversial petroleum pipeline that runs under the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac.

The report from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems is not the last word on the pipeline owned by Enbridge, a Canadian company. Michigan is still seeking a separate risk assessment, after firing another contractor  that was supposed to handle that analysis.

Environmental group examines Line 5

Here are 10 highlights from the report:

1. Existing pipelines are not a good alternative to handling Line 5's 540,000 barrels/day flow, due to limited capacity.

2. Ditto for tanker trucks, which would require one truck leaving a terminal every 40 seconds -- or 3,200 trucks per day.

3. Ditto for tanker barges, due to the bottleneck at the Soo Locks.

4. The most practical rail alternative is a route running south of the Great Lakes.

5. Building a new underwater pipeline in a trench or tunnel would lower safety and environmental risks, and would be better than rerouting a new pipeline around the Great Lakes.

6. The principal threat to Line 5 is an accidental hooking from a ship's anchor. The stress on pipeline spans is the least worrisome threat.

7. In 360 disaster scenarios -- from a small leak to a full rupture -- a single spill would on average impact about 20 miles of shoreline primarily affecting Cheboygan, Emmet, and/or Mackinac counties.

8. Cost estimates for a Line 5 release range from $100 million to $200 million, with about 60 percent attributed to environmental remediation. 

 

9. Abandoning Line 5 would cost about $200 million and would drive up the price of propane in Michigan's Upper Peninsula by 10-35 cents per gallon.

 

10. If Line 5 is abandoned, prices for refined petroleum products would increase by two cents per gallon across Michigan.

 

Enbridge said in a statement that it "remains committed to protecting the Great Lakes and meeting the energy needs of Michigan through the safe operation of Line 5. ... We appreciate the work of the independent contractor on the alternative analysis. We will need some time to thoroughly review and assess the findings before providing specific comments."

Michigan officials, meanwhile, note that they've already asked Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems for clarifications and have scheduled public comment sessions.

 

And the state apparently recognizes that those sessions could get heated, because it cautions: "Attendees are advised that no weapons ... will be allowed at the sessions."