There probably aren’t many of you out there who are unfamiliar with Enbridge Line 5, but just in case, let me catch you up to speed: it’s a highly contentious, 60+-year-old pipeline that shuttles fuel to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Of course, that means it has to pass through the Straits that connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Its quality has been called into question by environmental groups, and though Enbridge claims that it’s solidly built and safe for several more decades, a recently-leaked report indicates that several of the supports broke in the past, leaving areas of the pipeline unsecured underwater.
So where does my office come into play? Well, for one thing, Senator Peters and Senator Stabenow have co-sponsored a bill in the senate that would subject gas and oil pipelines in the great lakes to the same, stricter regulations that off-shore lines face. It’s expected to gain bi-partisan support. In our region, though, just south of the Straits, the line is generally regarded as a threat to life as we know it- in Traverse City itself, every third business seems to have a “Shut Down Line 5” sign hanging in the window.
I should stipulate that Senator Peters hasn’t taken a hard stance on the line one way or another- we’re still in the information-gathering phase. I can’t divulge too much information, but we’ve been meeting with local environmental nonprofits, educational groups, and one engineer who claims that the unsupported sections of the line had been bent by the currents before Enbridge repaired them. Myself, I’m researching property tax records in order to find out exactly how much money Enbridge contributes, county by county, every year in Michigan. And this is exactly the kind of work I wanted to be doing. It’s so cool to be a part of the information-gathering process of helping a U.S. Senator research and understand all sides of an issue. Being right there on the front lines with some local key players is just a bonus.
I’m kind of surprised at how easy it is to remain unbiased in my research. It’s my own personal belief that Line 5 should be closed down until a full inspection of currents and structural integrity can be made, but in my data gathering, I don’t find any of that seeping through, because I really want the best decision to be made based on the available information.