Chicago DSA Fights to Shut Down Oil Pipeline Under Lake Michigan

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It may not be on our minds as we lounge at the beach or pour a glass of tap water, but underneath Lake Michigan there lies a deteriorating pipeline built around the time Dwight Eisenhower took office. The pipeline infrastructure is outdated and dangerous, and It’s not just bleeding-heart leftists who feel this way. This summer, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette called for the pipeline’s closure. It was a good start. The problem is that he has yet to set a specific timeline for the closure.

The pipeline, known as Enbridge Line 5, was completed in 1953 and carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil per day underneath Lakes Michigan and Huron as well as the Straits of Mackinac. Although Enbridge stresses that its pipelines are safe, Line 5 suffered a major spill in 1999 and the Line 6 pipeline spilled and polluted the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

Luckily, it’s not Enbridge that has the final say. With the Michigan attorney general on-board to close the pipeline, all we need to do is pressure the government to create a firm timetable for its closure and hold them accountable to follow through.

This is why Chicago DSA joined with groups including American Indian Center, Food & Water Watch Midwest, and Chicago 350 for a solidarity event to shut down Line 5. Activists met on September 2 at Buckingham Fountain for a banner drop and rally intended to raise awareness about the danger Line 5 poses to our drinking water and our natural environment.

Chicago DSA’s Lucie Macias was on hand to deliver a speech.

“Every single day, Enbridge puts 20 percent of the world’s freshwater at risk by pumping nearly 23 million gallons of oil through aging pipelines that were meant to last 50 years. They have been there over 60,” she said.

“In March, Enbridge denied there were any areas of bare pipeline metal exposed to water during a state pipeline board meeting. Then, just this week, it was revealed that there are several gaps in a protective layer of enamel coating on the pipes.”

“This is the same company that testified before Congress that they could detect a leak almost instantly, and just 10 days later, on July 25th, 2010, Enbridge had the largest and most costly inland oil spill in U.S. history. The Enbridge Line 6B leak saturated 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River watershed because Enbridge misinterpreted alarms. And instead of shutting down the line, they increased pressure on the pipeline for 17 hours, until local authorities had to alert Enbridge of the leak.”

“Does that sound like a company that is committed to environmental protection and safety, or a company that is putting profit first?”

“Line 5 crosses one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world. The pristine straits in Michigan support bountiful fisheries and provide drinking water to thousands of people. The strong currents in the area mean that even a best-case-scenario leak, one that was caught almost instantly, would still travel quickly and have devastating effects for the people, fish, and wildlife along hundreds of miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.”

“We reject, in no uncertain terms, that Line 5 is part of vital energy infrastructure, and as such, we stand here today to call for Line 5 to be shut down.”