Sunday, January 3, 2016

Oil (Transportation) in the Great Lakes?!

I don't know what to make of this article but I think it's worth reposting.

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Business
What lurks beneath the Great Lakes? An oil pipeline that couldn’t get built today
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The Mississagi crosses underneath the Mackinac Bridge from Lake Michigan in September. The 620-foot-long freighter was launched in 1943. (Neil Blake/Grand Rapids Press via AP)
By Steve Friess January 2 at 10:15 AM
MACKINAW CITY, Mich. — Until a few years ago, Chris Shepler saw only beauty when he gazed out his office windows at the picturesque pier and the famed, majestic Mackinac Bridge looming in the distance. The Shepler name has adorned ferry boats crisscrossing those waters since 1945, and he was born perhaps 30 miles from this quay, so he figured he knew just about everything important there was to know about the Straits of Mackinac.

Now, though, it’s hard to look without imagining what, until 2011, he didn’t know lurked below: Two 62-year-old oil pipelines running parallel to the bridge for 4.5 miles across the Straits of Mackinac, the aquatic, turbulent seam where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Each day, some 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids roar through en route from the shale oil wells of Alberta to refineries in Detroit and Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipes, known as Line 5, are 20 inches in diameter, with one-inch-thick walls. On that line, they have never had a spill, a rupture or, to hear its Calgary, Alberta-based owner Enbridge tell it, even a repair. It also wasn’t a secret: The state of Michigan granted the underwater easement in 1953, and a few old-timers here even remember helping build and install it.

Nonetheless, Line 5’s existence was all but forgotten until another Enbridge pipe, Line 6B, burst open in July 2010 and over 18 hours spewed as much as 1.1 million gallons of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River near the central Michigan town of Marshall. In the wake of that — the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history — and with the fight raging over TransCanada’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the Great Plains, environmentalists looked around to see where else Enbridge was moving oil in the Wolverine State. To the surprise of many, they realized that it operated a major line through one of the world’s most sensitive freshwater areas.

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Make of it what you will. As someone originally from TO, who's got friends from Michigan, and who has lived across the continent... well, apparently, oil is a bigger deal in more areas than we thought. I don't know what to think of it. I imagine no one does.

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