The Line 5 debate: ‘Step back, take a deep breath, and look at the facts’

‘Sound science’ should guide the narrative, Michigan Chamber of Commerce president tells Detroit radio show

The facts on Enbridge’s Line 5 may be inconvenient to some—but they are also unavoidable, Michigan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rich Studley told a Detroit radio station on Wednesday.

“Facts are stubborn things,” Studley told the Frank Beckmann Show on News/Talk 760 WJR. “The fact is that in the past month, the Enbridge Line 5 has passed a rigorous federal safety test, a high-pressure safety test at levels far greater than standard operating procedures, and an independent report commissioned by the State of Michigan (that) has indicated that the line can be safely and reliably operated for the foreseeable future.

Sound science, not slogans or politics, should be the basis of the Line 5 debate,” added Studley.

Built in 1953 to extraordinary construction standards, the Line 5 Straits of Mackinac Crossing has operated without incident for more than 60 years.

The Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac are important to Michigan residents, and Enbridge takes special precautions to protect these vital resources.

Earlier this month, we completed successful hydrostatic testing on the twin pipes that cross under the Straits—emptying the 4.5-mile pipeline segments of oil, filling them with water, and pressure testing them to 1,200 pounds per square inch. That’s the same level at which they were tested before they began operation in 1953, and eight times their current normal operating pressure.

Last week, the State of Michigan released an independent Line 5 Alternative Analysis Report, prepared by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems.

Building new pipelines around the Great Lakes would cost between US$2 billion and US$4 billion depending upon the route, say the report’s authors, while adding that using alternative modes of transport to move the 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids is not a viable option.

“There are no reasonable alternatives,” Studley told host Frank Beckmann. “If you were to shut down Line 5 arbitrarily and suddenly tomorrow . . . soon it will be fall, and then winter, and there’ll be an immediate and severe propane shortage in the Upper Peninsula. There would be price increases for motor fuels, specifically gas and diesel. There would be lost jobs.

“No human endeavor is 100% safe. If we applied the same standards that some politicians and environmental extremists would like to apply to Line 5 and other oil and gas pipelines, we would shut down Michigan’s auto industry,” added Studley. “Traffic accidents and fatalities do occur every single day. But there’s a trade-off there in terms of safe and reliable transportation, and mobility, that is essential for our economy and our quality of life.

“We’re just calling for people to step back, take a deep breath, and look at the facts.”

About 30 percent of the light crude moved on Line 5 stays in the region, processed by refineries in the greater Detroit area. Line 5 also supplies 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula, and 55% of Michigan’s statewide propane needs.