Green Energy, Guest Post, Michigan — December 7, 2015 at 6:54 am

GUEST POST: A Ticking Time Bomb/Pipeline (Dire Straits)


The following guest post was written by Denny Green of Clean Water Action – Michigan.


Anytime you hear that something or someone’s days are numbered, you get the idea that it’s a matter of grave significance — certainly something to be regarded with the utmost concern and action.

Well, it’s been more than 140 days since Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette used this very language to describe the declining state of the 62-year-old pipelines—though they were only supposed to last 50 years—that run right through the pristine Straits of Mackinac. (Maybe the pipeline’s days were numbered in Roman numerals . . . I know that can sure get confusing.)

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Snyder both have it within their power to do something about these outdated pipelines, and have even “talked the talk” about taking some vague sort of action… deciding to take an undetermined period of rest before embarking on “walking that walk”.

In a report released this past July, Governor Snyder’s Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force came out with recommendations that sound good at face value, but again, still fall pretty short of any real, or immediate actions. This reminds me of admitting to my mom that my room did need to be cleaned, and that I’d do it before Christmas. I moved out twenty-five years ago and my old room is still full of the same toys and teddy-bears from my 19-year-old self. (Ehem . . . this isn’t about me!)

See, my inaction and procrastination never put the health of our entire state in peril… never spelled doom for our Great Lakes and economy — with one in five jobs connected to plentiful and quality fresh water, all vulnerable to a devastating oil spill from the pair of decrepit pipelines that push 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Straits of Mackinac.

Because, even though the State finally acknowledged that it, and not the federal government alone, has the authority to regulate and even “decommission” the pipelines (which experts warn could fail at any time), many still feel that anything less than an immediate shutdown means Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette are not living up to their duty, and moral obligation, to protect the Great Lakes and environment.

So ,yes, they admit to the grave threat posed by the pipelines — Bill Schuette conceding, “You would not build a Straits pipeline in this decade; I’m doubtful it will be open in future decades.” But talk is cheap, and it amounts to little more than the promise to start counting the old calories… after all this turkey and stuffing is gone. So, we’ll see.

Dr. David Schwab, a research scientist at the University of Michigan Water Center has gone on record as saying: “If you were to pick the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this would be it,” adding, “The currents are powerful and change directions frequently. In the event of an oil spill, these factors would lead to a big mess that would be very difficult to contain.”

(None of this even mentions the possibility of an oil spill in the middle of winter, when having to cut through the thick ice covering in the Straits of Mackinac would slow down and complicate matters beyond anything we’d care to imagine, much less hope to see.)

So, while we’re still in the spirit of Thanksgiving is still with us — and as we head into the holiday season — let’s just take a look at a few things that we’re thankful for, but would be utterly destroyed by a pipeline oil leak:

Recent industry data shows that 96 million travelers—in and out-of-state business and vacation travelers— visited Michigan in 2010. And Michigan’s $17.7 billion tourism economy is only growing. This, of course, would come to a screeching halt if our pristine shores and waterways were to suddenly become covered in thick, filthy crude oil. Michigan’s annual tourist numbers would drop sharply to somewhere between 0 and those one guys who like actually looking at black lakes. (And just to give you an idea of how devastating this can be, take a look at what the Enbridge 2010 oil spill did to the Kalamazoo River.)

Few people could doubt how important water is to Michigan’s economy, and thanks to the Michigan Blue Economy report, released by Grand Valley State University researchers, those few people are seeing their numbers reduced to fewer. The study shows that with shipping, agriculture, tourism, etc., at least one in five Michigan jobs is related to water. Other than hopeless clean-up jobs, an oil spill would do very little to fill that void.

Drinking Water
The Great Lakes account for 90% of the fresh surface water supply for the Unites States, nearly 20% of the entire world — making the Great Lakes the source of drinking water for over 35 million people. To give you an idea of how significant that is, if you were in line behind 35 people at the grocery store, you’d switch lanes… well, this would be a million times more than that. (I hope that helped.)

So knowing all of this, there’s neither time — nor an excuse — for inattentiveness and idle behavior. Because of the increasing and inevitable catastrophic threat they pose, it has become more and more common for the state of these pipelines to be likened to that of a “ticking time bomb”, and anybody who’s ever seen an episode of the A-Team (or even a good show) understands that a ticking time bomb is nothing to be trifled with, or waved away with a lazy air of indifference.