Fenton resident Ronald Kardos shows concern over the history of Line 6B and its company’s potential future impact on the Great Lakes State.
MICHIGAN—The soil in his vegetable garden “has never been the same.”
Ronald Kardos has firsthand experience with damage done to his property by what was formerly Enbridge Energy’s Line 6B, now known as Line 78.
The longtime Fenton native has long been familiar with the company since that same line spilled into the Kalamazoo River in July 2010.
A pipeline easement is about 60 feet north of his front porch.
‘I Can See The Devastation’
“[Enbridge is] very aggressive,” Kardos said. “They talk a lot about safety, they talk a lot about everything they’re supposed to do to protect the environment. But really, their bottom line is to get as much money as they can. The reason they’re able to be so aggressive and get what they want is because of the laws that are currently in their favor.”
Prior to the replacement of Line 6B, Kardos said Enbridge dug up two suspected bad spots near his property, replacing a 60-foot section of line. It was mid-winter and he said he had almost no way to leave his own driveway.
“After the spill in [the Kalamazoo River], and after all the issues we had with the pipeline, I became extremely active in the (Michigan) Sierra Club,” he said. “I’m angry because I can see the devastation that occurred around Kalamazoo.”
He said the company’s “dishonesty” was evident in how its pipeline was constructed, such as how to deal with invasive species like phragmites. Enbridge’s large, heavy machinery compacted his soil, he claimed, so much so that it took 15 minutes for him to drill a six-inch-sized hole in the ground.
A pipeline, a water resource and a company’s desire to be the best
Nowadays, Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is both a source of praise and consternation.
It was first installed in 1953 and runs between lakes Huron and Michigan, including approximately 4 1/2 miles across the Straits of Mackinac, where it is composed of two 20-inch diameter parallel pipelines that are located about 250 feet below sea level.
Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids per day through a 645-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge, headquartered in Calgary, Canada, is poised to become North America’s leading energy delivery company. The company currently moves about 25% of the continent’s produced crude oil, and transports about 20% of the United States’ consumed natural gas. By consumer count, the company states it is the third-largest natural gas utility.
Line 5 supplies about 55% of Michigan’s propane needs, including about 65% of demand in the state’s Upper Peninsula.
Maintaining a habitable environment in spite of federal blowback
Line 5 and the tunnel project are just a piece of the entire Great Lakes paradigm.
President Donald Trump’s administration proposed eliminating or cutting up to 90% of the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative budget in three of his first four years in office, with 2020 being the outlier.
Projects supported by GLRI funds include addressing: Toxic substances and other areas of concern; invasive species; nonpoint source pollution impacts on nearshore health; habitat and species; and foundations for future restoration actions.
Toxic substances and other areas of concern composed the largest chunk of 2019 fiscal year funding, at 36%.
On July 21 of this year, 20 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia sued the Trump administration, alleging that new water rules do not protect rivers, lakes and streams. Michigan, and Attorney General Dana Nessel, is part of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit stemmed from an EPA announcement that a practice in place for 30 years regarding state authority to review, block or put conditions on federally permitted water projects would be altered.
An executive order was issued by Trump in April 2019, in which critics alleged that pipelines and other projects could be more readily allowed and impair water quality.
“As a result, the agency’s final rule increases the transparency and efficiency of the … certification process in order to promote the timely review of infrastructure projects while continuing to ensure that Americans have clean water for drinking and recreation,” the EPA said in a statement.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, when announcing the lawsuit, said the regulations would limit states’ reviews of natural gas and oil pipelines, along with hydroelectric projects, wastewater treatment plants and land development.
In Michigan, however, the battle has been waged for a while.
Myriad decades since the pipeline’s installation, however, many environmental groups and even some of Michigan’s highest elected officials are debating whether Line 5 poses more risk than necessity.
The conversation has ballooned due to Enbridge’s plans to construct the $500 million Great Lakes Tunnel Project in the Straits of Mackinac.
This is a three-part series on the importance of environmental protections for Michigan’s residents living around the infamous Line 5 oil pipeline.