The Rapidian

Local environmental groups react to Governor Snyder's refusal to shut down Line 5

Grand Rapids Water Protectors, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and The Sierra Club call for immediate shut down of controversial pipeline
Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge /Creative Commons

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On Friday, January 26, 2018 Governor Rick Snyder sent a letter to the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board of Michigan regarding the pipeline “Line 5” owned by Enbridge Inc., where he "respectfully" turned down their advice to shut down the pipeline.

Many local and national environmental groups have called on the governor to act in favor of shutting down Line 5, including the Sierra Club, Grand Rapids Water Protectors, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Now these same organizations are decrying Snyder’s dismissal of advice given by the board, which called for a temporary shutdown of Line 5 for Enbridge to fix “coating gaps” in the pipeline.  

The chair of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, Anne Woiwode, said she was disappointed in Snyder’s response to the resolutions presented by the board.

“When the governor rejected these (resolutions) out of hand, it showed a real disrespect for a board that he himself appointed,” she said. “I'd like to see him pay attention to the science of this, and shut the pipeline down now.”

The vice president of Grand Rapids Water Protectors, Shannon Abbott, as well as other board members of the organization, said collectively in an emailed statement that they support members of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board who presented the resolution and voted yes to shut down Line 5.

“The threats Line 5 pose range from negative impacts on our environment (land, water, and air) to our health; from our industry/businesses to our tourism and activities; from our economy here in Michigan to the economy across the United States, and further," in a statement from Abbott and other board members.

The board agreed that the only viable solution to safeguard the health of Michiganders is to permanently shut down the pipeline.

Bill Wood, executive director for WMEAC, said the governor has the opportunity to reclaim his legacy on water, which he said is going to look “pretty bad” due to what he claims is his involvement in the Flint water crisis.

“A proactive stance on shutting down Line 5 could help change the course of what he leaves behind when his term is done and he leaves office,” Wood said in an email interview.

Tanya Baker, deputy press secretary for the executive office of Gov. Rick Snyder, reiterated a point made in Snyder’s letter sent to the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board that shutting down the pipeline would lead to a “critical shortage of propane” for Upper Peninsula residents.

According to Woidode, however, that argument does not hold water. She points to a study done by the board that shows an alternative solution to that problem, which involves delivering multiple trucks worth of propane per day to the Upper Penninsula to substitute what is being produced by the pipeline.

She said the argument that the pipeline, which pumps millions of gallons of oil per day underneath part of the Great Lakes, is “outrageous.”

“It shows the governor is really not paying attention to the threat here,” Woidode said.

Wood said a couple rail cars coming from Superior, Wisconsin every day could supply the eastern part of the Upper Penninsula with the propane they need.

In addition to reacting to Snyder’s unwillingness in his letter to shut down the pipeline temporarily, environmental groups denounced a closed door meeting Snyder had with members of Enbridge, where an agreement was made to shut the pipeline down during particular inclimate weather. The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board was not consulted for this meeting.

“The Governor appointed a board with a diverse team, and bypassing the team he appointed is a slap in the face to the board and the constituents that have been voicing their concerns to this panel,” members of GRWP said via email.

Baker said the agreement was reached to ensure safe operation of the pipeline that is protective of Michigan’s environment. She said there were no previous requirements for Enbridge to shut down the pipeline under certain circumstances, such as when waves off the Great Lakes reach over 8 feet, so the state sought those protections.

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