Protesting oil pipeline across Mackinac Straits

Photo by Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

Photo by Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

July 14 rally to feature founder Bill McKibben

Special report from Circle of Blue, by Codi Yeager-Kozacek and Colin Smith

The Straits of Mackinac, which separate Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, are the site of one of the most famous water crossings in the United States — the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, which opened in 1957.

But four years before, in 1953, Enbridge Inc., the Canadian energy transport company, installed two 20-inch steel pipelines across the straits to ship oil and natural gas liquids to refineries and processing plants in Sarnia, Ontario, and to southeast Michigan. For 60 years the dual lines, according to company and federal records, have operated without incident and almost no public attention, submerged by 120 feet of water and overshadowed by the magnificent bridge that lay alongside.

On Sunday, July 14, a group of state and national environmental organizations intend to bring the two lines out of the depths at a noon rally in St. Ignace, Michigan. The goal of “The Oil & Water Don’t Mix Rally”, say organizers, is twofold. The first is to define the potential risks of a leak or rupture to the Great Lakes, the largest body of clean surface freshwater in North America. The second, more ambitious, is to clarify the role that Enbridge and its customers are playing in expanding the transport and processing of a gusher of oil and natural gas under development on the American and Canadian Great Plains, and from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

“We want to raise awareness because most people don’t know there are pipelines beneath the Great Lakes,” said Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute, one of the three rally organizers along with TC 350 and the National Wildlife Federation. “We want to put in place protections for the Great Lakes so that Enbridge will never bring tar sands oil through that pipeline. And we want to replace the pipeline with safer technology. It needs to be the safest possible.”

Read the rest of Circle of Blue’s report here.

Stay tuned for Glen Arbor Sun editor Jacob Wheeler’s report on the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River — the largest on-land oil spill in U.S. history.