McBroom fails to reveal all facts in supporting Line 5 tunnel


This is in response to an op-ed by state Sen. Ed McBroom that recently appeared in the Escanaba Daily Press. His piece voices strong opinions in favor of the tunnel project but fails to explore the facts about Line 5 and the proposed tunnel. He claims the tunnel will make a safe pipeline safer. Let’s start with the fact that the portion of the pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac is now 67 years old. Numerous areas of bare pipe have been discovered. The bed under the pipeline has been scoured, and additional anchors have had to be put in place, a clear demonstration of safety issues. In 2018, a tug barge dragged its anchor across the pipeline and dented it, narrowly avoiding a disaster. The tunnel project would damage wetlands, dump thousands of cubic yards of excavated material into some unnamed location, and would discharge dirty process water into the straits. Sen. McBroom fails to address any of these issues.

This month, Enbridge informed the state that a pipeline anchor support had sustained “significant damage,” and the line was shut down. Refusing the consultation requested by the governor, Enbridge unilaterally restarted one of the twin pipelines. This is part of a pattern of practice. Recall the massive and destructive Line 6 pipeline failure that polluted the Kalamazoo River, and Enbridge’s tardy response.

The senator references the final report of the U.P. Energy Task Force, and claims the final propane report supports the current system. He claims suggestions for delivering propane to U.P. customers via rail would be less safe than a “safe” pipeline tunnel, and would result in higher energy costs. But the UPETF did not discuss the safety and dangers of Line 5. It examined the resiliency of the U.P. propane supply through the lens of availability, disruption scenarios, and alternative means of supply and transportation. Mr. McBroom’s arguments seem to be more a defense of Enbridge’s existing infrastructure and future plans than an objective look at the analysis performed by the task force.

The senator also cites the jobs that building the tunnel would provide. Although temporary jobs would be provided, the tunnel would anchor Michigan and the U.P. to 20th-century technology while newer energy technology and the jobs thus provided may pass us by. The fastest-growing energy jobs are in solar and wind.

Any development project can be examined for any benefits it provides as well as its negative impacts. On its face, a tunnel buried deep in the lakebed may be preferable to exposed 67-year old pipes laid on bottomlands. But we don’t have to choose between two bad options. Building out the rail infrastructure would also create new jobs, would not pose an ongoing threat to the ecological and human health of the Great Lakes, and would provide a diverse and reliable supply of propane to residents of the U.P.

Last week an Ingham County Court judge granted the state attorney general’s motion for a temporary restraining order, and ordered Enbridge to halt the transport of all petroleum products by Line 5, and to disclose all information in its possession relating to the cause of the recent damage. It shouldn’t take legal action to force Enbridge to cooperate. A thorough review and dialogue about the recommendations contained in the Task Force report are of paramount importance. Rather than acting as a booster for Enbridge, we urge Sen. McBroom to engage in that dialogue.

Jeff Towner



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