Happy Halloween, everyone! Those of us along Line 6B have more than our fair share of frights over the past year or more. So we’re bringing you a treat instead: a guest post from our friend and hero Beth Wallace!

5 spooky facts about Enbridge’s Mackinac Pipeline

by Beth Wallace

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for many reasons:

  • Dress up..and what girl doesn’t love to dress up!
  • And best of all – you get to scare the crap out of people all day and nobody can get mad at you!

Taking advantage of the last point – I would like to share 5 very real and very scary facts about Enbridge’s Mackinac Pipeline.

This past August, I rang in my 30th birthday by joining Enbridge on a panel in Ironwood, Mich., to brief a room of reporters on the Mackinac Pipeline. I went into this conversation determined to gather as much information from Enbridge as I possibly could. I knew this was the best chance I was going to get for a long time considering that both Enbridge and the PHMSA continue to brush off our formal requests for disclosure of integrity around this pipeline.

If you’re not familiar with the Mackinac pipeline – you can watch this video for a quick debrief.

Now, on to the spooky facts:
Image 51. Enbridge has increased pressure on the 60 year old Mackinac Pipeline by 50,000 barrels per day. This pipeline has never been replaced and has had a history of failure – including a rupture in Crystal Falls of 226,000 gallons of crude and natural gas liquids in 1999. Like many pipeline failures around the country, Enbridge did not discover this rupture. A motorist driving by smelled the strong petroleum odor and called 911. This spill formed a potentially explosive cloud that forced dozens of nearby residents to evacuate. Enbridge officials ignited the vapor cloud to prevent it from spreading, which touched off a raging fire that burned for 36 hours and scorched eight acres of land.


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2. According to Enbridge, in order to increase pressure on their pipeline, PHMSA only required hydro tests of two small sections of the pipeline that had never been hydro tested before. Enbridge indicated that those sections were only ~50 miles in length and ~75 miles in length. The Enbridge folks in the room did not know where those tests occurred, but we know that one took place in Bay City since it turned up a failure on the line. Despite the test indicating failure on the pipeline, Enbridge was given the green light to increase pressure throughout their pipeline and completed that project sometime in July 2013.




3. Enbridge has not yet been required to obtain a presidential permit for the expansion and operational changes made to the Mackinac Pipeline, which would have required an Environmental Impact Statement and public comment periods. Both Enbridge and the American Petroleum Institute stated that these types of permits are arbitrary and only delay projects.

ImageI took that opportunity to explain that these permits are the only way the public can have a voice in these risky projects. Moreover, a proper Environmental Impact Statement has never been required for this pipeline. Increasing pressure on a massive 60 year old pipeline that crosses the freshwater drinking source for millions of people should go through a public comment period and impact review.


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4. If the Mackinac Pipeline were to rupture in or near the Straits of Mackinac, Enbridge has admitted to having only one representative nearby. In Enbridge’s own emergency response plan, they indicate that it would take them 3 hours to respond from Escanaba or 6 hours from Bay City. Depending on the weather, response might not even be possible at all. In addition, we have records that indicate Enbridge is not utilizing state of the art technology at these locations, for shut down of their pipeline, which could cause any rupture to be much greater.


Image 65. Enbridge stated that this pipeline could last indefinitely and that they currently have no plans for replacement of this 60 year old pipeline. The most frightening fact behind this statement is that this kind of thinking is one of the main reasons Enbridge had the largest and most costly inland oil spill in Marshall, Mich., three years ago when Line 6B spilled around 1 million gallons into the Kalamazoo river system. Enbridge knew Line 6b had a large number of problems but they postponed plans for replacement and pressed forward with risky operations. Waiting for a pipeline to have massive failure, before you consider improvements, is extremely frightening and many would argue illegal.

If you would like to contact your senators – NWF has created a very easy action alert reminding our Senators that pipelines that have international border crossings, and go through operational changes- like the Mackinac Pipeline and Line 6B- need to obtain a presidential permit.