Oil Expansion Plans Create Large Risk for Straits of Mackinac

A Canadian pipeline company plans to expand the amount of oil it pumps through the Straits of Mackinac, but the National Wildlife Federation warns that this would greatly increase the risk of an oil spill that would environmentally and economically desecrate the area.

According to a report, the National Wildlife Federation has asked for the government to deny all oil pipeline expansions in the Great Lakes Basin. Enbridge Energy, the pipeline company hoping to expand, has had terrible oil spills in the past including the one in Kalamazoo River in 2010.

West of the Mackinac Bridge are two pipelines, called Line 5, that rest beneath the water’s surface. These are the lines Enbridge hope to expand on, and already distribute 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluids each day. Line 5 also has been reported to have some operational issues because of high external pressure and extreme underwater currents.

If the pipelines were to leak, the oil slick would devastate the lakes’ fisheries, wildlife refuges, and municipal drinking water. The Straits of Mackinac is a four-mile-wide channel that funnels water between Lakes Huron and Michigan. Water can more through the straits at three or more feet per second, which would spread oil to other areas very quickly in the event of a spill.

The report states that the company wants to pump an additional 2.1 million gallons per day through Line 5, but also says the twin pipelines that cross the bottom of the Straits are almost 60 years old and should be replaced.

The report also warns of the additional dangers that tar sands oil — oil the federation says is in the pipeline — could pose because of its suspected higher corrosiveness than standard crude. Enbridge has maintained that tar sands oil is no different than other forms of crude.

To see the entire report, please click here.

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