Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 is ‘all wet’

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but think one of my missions in life revolves around water. As a former newspaper publisher in York, Neb., I worked tirelessly to inform our readers about the injustice we know as TransCanada’s KXL pipeline. There are so many reasons why that is a disastrous project, from what’s in the pipe (tar sands), to the fact it would lie in or directly above the Ogallala Aquifer, to where the tar sands would end up (Port Arthur, Texas), where it would be refined and exported onto the world market.

From York, I was on to Scottsbluff, Neb., where oil companies in Wyoming and Colorado wanted to take their toxic fracking wastewater and inject it into an abandoned Nebraska oil well right through the fresh water aquifer. Again, I took a hard line against that insanity.

Scottsbluff was followed by retirement to beautiful and water-rich Northeast Michigan, where, upon my arrival, I find the controversy about Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5, which transports Canadian oil to Canadian oil refineries, for the most part, and travels through the Straits of Mackinac.

This is crazy!

Folks, there are three things we must have to survive: clean water, breathable air, and food. Please don’t jump to the conclusion I am some type of environmental extremist who wants to completely do away with oil, like the Green New Deal dreamers. But, come on, fresh water is flat-out essential to you, me and every other living creature on earth.

The U.S. is blessed to have the two largest freshwater reserves in the world, The High Plains, often referred to as the Ogallala Aquifer, and the Great Lakes. That water is in high demand. Studies have been done and books written about plans to divert water from both of those natural wonders to areas in the Southwest that are population-rich and water-poor.

The most recent book is a novel called “The Devils Pipeline,” by Michael Fitzgerald. If you are concerned at all about the demand for water, that book is well worth the read.

So, Enbridge’s Line 5 and all the fuss, what’s it about? Well, for starters, let’s just say Michigan has been dang lucky to avoid a major oil spill in the Straits. Not the case on Enbridge’s Line 6B, which, in 2010, after repeated warnings from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, burst and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River. Cleanup efforts went on for five years and cost well over $1 billion.

Now, Enbridge wants to tunnel under the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac. If one were looking at a map of America, and was asked to pick the worst possible place to put a dirty oil pipeline, anyone with any common sense would point their finger directly at Mackinac!

Enbridge will tell us their proposed tunnel is to reduce the risk, that their leak detection systems are state-of-the-art, that they can shut down the pipe in seconds, and they have adequate spill response teams standing at the ready.

They said many of those same things about Line 6B in Marshall.

But the Enbridge employees in the control complex misread their own leak detection system, and, instead of shutting it down, they pumped even more pressure into the pipe. That didn’t go on for 17 minutes. That went on for 17 hours and didn’t stop until residents began calling 911 because of toxic odors and oil on the ground. By then, the damage to people, homes, the river and the environment had already been done.

I don’t want to reduce the risks to the aquifers and Great Lakes. Whenever possible, I want to eliminate the risk. The KXL is a pipeline through America, not to America. Why should the Midwest states have to assume all the risks so a foreign corporation can make billions for their stockholders? Enbridge’s Line 5 is a pipeline through Michigan, Canadian oil going to Canadian refineries, and we are to assume the risk of a major oil spill in the Straits?

In Nebraska we called stuff like that “all risk, no reward.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is right to want to shut down Line 5. Enbridge should route it through Canada. Not only is the U.S. the world’s largest oil producer, we are exporting it now, too.

We don’t want or need the tar sand oil from Alberta.

Now you know where I stand. Am I “all wet?” I am curious to know your thoughts. Please share them with me at gregawtry@awtry.com .

Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at gregawtry@awtry.com.