Gridlock threatening Straits of Mackinac

Line 5 runs under the Straits of Mackinac and has been the topic of much debate in recent years. (Contributed photo)

I don’t know what sort of permitting processes were in place in 1953 when the twin pipelines now owned by Enbridge Corporation were built to transport oil and other petroleum products across the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. I’m sure some permits were needed and, before the first inch of pipe was installed, numerous government agencies checked off on the plans and monitored the construction.

It must have been a good plan since the pipeline has now been transporting these energy supplies safely for over 60 years. Had the same amount of crude and natural gas been delivered by other means across Michigan, there’s no telling how much damage to the environment may have resulted.

Pipelines are the most efficient and least dangerous means of transportation ever invented for liquids and gas. It’s safer than tanker ships, tanker trucks, tanker rail cars, airplanes, five-gallon containers, you name it. Pipeline failures are exceedingly few and far between.

What’s at play these days isn’t so much the danger of a problem with what’s called Line 5 under the Straits, it’s the anti-fossil fuel antagonism of environmental extremists who won’t be happy until … actually, I don’t think they will ever be happy. One thing they perceive that will make them happy is shutting down Line 5 – part of an ill-conceived quest to end all use of fossil fuels.

“Line 5 is old,” they say. “It’s susceptible to damage from any number of sources, including errant anchors, sinking ships, rust, terrorist attacks …”  Any of these could result in a major oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac and more, depending on which way the current is flowing. Perhaps areas of Lake Michigan would be affected. More likely, areas in Lake Huron would receive damage to both the lake and the lakeshore areas.

So Enbridge came up with a solution: Dig a tunnel deep beneath the straits then reroute the pipeline through the tunnel. Not only would the pipeline be new, it could more easily be inspected for potential structural issues as well as being oblivious to dangling downrigger weights and tucked away from scuba-diving terrorist cells.

The governmental go-ahead to start the five-year-to-completion project was given last December. Now that agreement, at least by the Michigan government, has been withdrawn.

There’s a new governor in Lansing – a governor from the other political party, and in this day and age, putting the nix on any rule, regulation, agreement or decree made by an opposite party is much more important in Lansing than the threat of environmental devastation way up by Mackinaw Island. It’s called gridlock – present in Washington, Lansing and becoming more common in local governments as well. I purposely didn’t mention party names because the political gridlock games are played by Rs as often as Ds.

I’m sure the current administration counts this as a win. What will they count it as if the environmentalists’ warnings become a reality?

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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