Spartan Sierra Club looking to halt crude oil flow from Line 5
Spartan Sierra Club, an on-campus and student-run environmental group, is on a mission to stop the "dangerous" flow of crude oil through Enbridge’s Line 5 in Michigan’s Great Lakes, grabbing signatures for petitions and hoping for President Lou Anna K. Simon’s support with their mission.
“We have a three-fold approach,” said international relations senior Courtney Bourgoin, vice president and co-founder of the club. “We do environmental campaigning on environmental issues that affect Michigan, we do service and volunteer in Flint and recycle every weekend after basketball games and then the third thing we do is outdoor exploration, so like hiking and camping trips.”
Line 5 is a 645-mile petroleum pipeline, which is part of a larger system, that transports crude oil from Wisconsin, across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and through northern Michigan to Ontario. Most notably and controversially, the pipeline moves through the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
This particular area of water is capable of generating powerful currents. The extreme winter weather conditions mixed with the powerful currents make the straits of Mackinac ecologically sensitive. The cleanup from a spill would be nearly impossible and extremely dangerous, Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation said.
Wallace is a board member of the Pipeline Safety Trust and is responsible for being one of the first people to bring the Line 5 issue to the public. She first started looking into Line 5 after Enbridge’s other major pipeline ruptured in Marshall, Mich. in 2010.
“It was one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history,” Wallace said. “It had huge health affects on the surrounding wildlife. That pipeline was 50 years old. Line 5 is 64 years old.”
Bourgoin shares in Wallace's concerns about the 2010 spill that left 1,000,000 gallons of oil in the Kalamazoo River adding, "it was pretty detrimental to that community, especially the wildlife there. The EPA has been cleaning it up for years.”
Since Wallace’s initial report on the pipeline years ago, the issue has been receiving extensive media attention.
Enbridge is not required to release inspection reports or quality reports, yet the multi-billion dollar company continues to reassure the public there are no hazards as long as there is upkeep. However, if the pipeline were to burst the effects would be catastrophic.
“The Great Lakes are both an economic resource and a basic human right, fresh water resource,” Wallace said. “If the pipeline ruptures, everyone’s health would be at risk and thousands of tourism jobs would be in jeopardy.”
The Spartan Sierra Club has taken on the role of bringing attention to the pipeline and its dangers to campus.
“It’s completely degrading,” Bourgoin said. “The company built the pipeline to last 50 years ... the way that we're approaching it is getting President Simon to sign on and make a public statement and that would put pressure on our attorney general, Gov. (Rick) Snyder and the DEQ who are basically in charge of what happens with the pipeline.”
Members of the club have been rallying against the pipeline at the Rock on Farm Lane every Thursday for the past couple weeks, but plan to petition more frequently to increase awareness and add more signatures to their petition.
The group wants Enbridge officials to create preventative measures on the pipeline instead of planning for cleanup emergency responses. The goal is to be preventative instead of jumping to damage control.
Wallace hopes the club’s petition grabs the attention of President Simon.
“We need that support ... If the MSU president publicly supports the decommissioning of the pipeline then there will be a major university on our side," Wallace said. "If we have a university that cares then it is a political conversation. There are people that hold positions in office that support universities, maybe they'll support us. We don’t want to get political, but we’ll take that route if we have to."