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Hearings Tomorrow, Monday on Line 5 in Traverse City

A recent government report showed an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could generate costs of $2 billion to $6 billion in damages. (Wikimedia Commons)
A recent government report showed an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could generate costs of $2 billion to $6 billion in damages. (Wikimedia Commons)
August 17, 2018

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The battle over whether to decommission or replace the Line Five oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac comes to Traverse City tomorrow and Monday, with two public hearings.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is hosting a public forum on Saturday and a legislative field hearing on Monday, both at 10 a.m. on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College.

David Holtz, communications director with the group "Oil and Water Don't Mix," says even though this is a state decision, the feds still have an important role to play in preventing oil spills.

"We saw what happened in 2010, when the federal regulators didn't hold Enbridge's feet to the fire on pipeline safety,” says Holtz. “We had a $1.2 billion cost to Michigan in oil-spill response, recovery and damages. It was in Marshall, Michigan – the largest oil spill on land in North America."

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy reports that the company covered the cost of that spill and says Line 5 is important to oil supplies in the region. Governor Rick Snyder has said he supports Enbridge's requests to rebuild the pipeline. The permit process is ongoing and is sure to face legal challenges.

Liz Kirkwood, executive director for the nonprofit group For Love of Water or FLOW, says Line Five has surpassed its lifetime in terms of safety. Her group maintains Line Five risks the health of the Great Lakes every day that it continues to carry oil.

"The magnitude of harm is so catastrophic, ranging be it $2 billion to $6 billion economic blow to the region,” says Kirkwood. “And this body of water, the Great Lakes, is globally significant in that it contains 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. "

Monday's hearing will include testimony from multiple federal agencies, from representatives of Enbridge, local business people and conservation groups. The only opportunity for public comment will be at Saturday's public forum.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI