By Jim Bloch
Two days after Enbridge officials briefed the Marysville City Council on the drilling project to install a new section of Line 5 under the St. Clair River, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for the shutdown of the 645-mile pipeline.
“Michigan’s Line 5 pipeline is a threat to millions who rely on the Great Lakes for clean water and a healthy economy,” Warren tweeted on Feb. 26. “My plans for a #GreenNewDeal will rebuild our infrastructure and create over 10 million union jobs. Let’s #ShutDownLine5 and build an 100 percent clean energy future.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is fighting Enbridge in court, responded to Warren.
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“Bravo to @ewarren for recognizing the inherent danger of Enbridge Line 5 and appreciating the need to protect the sanctity of the Great Lakes and invest in renewable energy that will not poison or planet,” tweeted Nessel. “America would be fortunate to call you our President.”
Pete Buttigieg, another Democratic candidate for President, called for the shutdown of Line 5 two days earlier.
“With such a high risk of an oil spill under the Great Lakes, Michigan can’t afford to keep the Line 5 pipeline in operation. In every community, we need new clean energy solutions to meet our climate crisis,” said Buttigieg on Feb. 24.
The Michigan primary is March 10, a week after Super Tuesday.
Bernie Sanders called for the shutdown of Line 5 on the ninth anniversary of the Enbridge spill into Talmadge Creek, the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.
“Nine years ago, 1.2 million gallons of crude oil spilled from Enbridge’s 6B pipeline into the Kalamazoo River,” Sanders tweeted on July 25, 2019. “Today, with the climate crisis worsening, we must #ShutDownLine5 pipeline in Michigan and ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure. What we need is a Green New Deal.”
The main focus of opponents to Line 5 has been the Straits of Mackinac, where the 67-year-old 30-inch pipeline splits into two 20-inch lines and runs along the bottom of the Straits before recombining on the Lower Peninsula into a 30-inch line, which runs to Marysville and across the St. Clair River to Froomfield, Ontario, just south of Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.
A 2016 study by the David Schwab at the University of Michigan found a worst-case-scenario spill from Line 5 in the straits could impact more than 600 miles of shoreline, and a number of islands, in northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
A rupture of Line 5 in the St. Clair River could affect the drinking water intakes at Marysville, about a half-mile south of the Line 5, St. Clair, East China, Marine City and Algonac, and jeopardize the ecologically sensitive St. Clair Flats, the largest freshwater delta in the world.
“Enbridge has entered into an agreement with the state of Michigan back in 2017 to replace the St. Clair River crossing as a proactive measure,” said Larry Smerechinski, project manager, addressing the Marysville City Council at its regular meeting on Feb. 24. “The project scope is the installation of 2800 feet of 30-inch pipe underneath the river by horizontal directional drill.”
Smerechinski and Enbridge legal counsel Shannon Benzer underlined the company’s commitment to safety.
Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids that are refined into propane.
Enbridge has established two staging areas toward the north end of River Road. The northernmost area is the local of the old pipe, which will be decommissioned and left in place once the new section of the pipeline is up and running, scheduled for June.
The southerly staging area is where the new pipe, which is being assembled on the Canadian side of the river, will be pulled through the horizontal directionally drilled borehole 32 feet below the river bottom.
Among other safety features, Enbridge has erected 15-foot walls for deadening sound.
The drilling is scheduled to begin March 2.