The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club filed suit in U.S. District Court in Bay City on January 15 against the U.S. Forest Service. The Lawsuit was filed to compel the federal agency to complete a much-needed inspection of Enbridge oil pipeline number 5 before issuing a permit allowing it to continue transporting oil through some of Michigan’s national forests, rivers and through the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge pipeline number 5 runs from Wisconsin through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, under the Mackinac Bridge through the Straits and through the Huron and Manistee National Forests. The Muskegon River, Manistee River, Pine River, Au Sable River and so on are all at risk from the number 5 pipeline.
Enbridge built the pipeline in 1953 and it has never been thoroughly inspected to ensure the pipeline does not leak or has any damage that could pose a problem in the future. Since 2013, Enbridge has operated the pipeline with no permit from the U.S. Forest Service. Only a few weeks ago, a small leak allowed a small amount of oil to spill into Lake Michigan from the Upper Peninsula.
The U.S. Forest Service was about to waive the permit requirement when the Sierra Club of Michigan filed the lawsuit in Bay City U.S. District Court. Under the The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) a complete inspection of the pipeline is required for Enbridge to use it to transport oil. In 60 years, the pipeline has never been thoroughly inspected.
Number 5 is not the only pipeline operated by Enbridge in Michigan. Line number 6B runs through Southern Michigan. This is the line that spilled a million gallons into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. The river bottom is still coated with sludge from that spill, and will contaminate the river for many years without proper clean up.
Our forests, rivers and Great Lakes need protection from oil spills and other industrial contaminants. Enbridge has proven they do not have a system that ensures against environmental accidents, and the U.S. Forest Service has no business giving them another permit without going through the effort to inspect the pipeline and make sure future spills will not happen. The Sierra Club is looking out for our environment, and for the well-being of our state.