Up to 23 million gallons of oil are pumped daily via a worn-out pipeline through the heart of the Great Lakes. Enbridge’s Line 5 runs from Duluth, Minnesota to Sarnia, Ontario, and travels along the lakebed 200 feet beneath the surface of the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
Alarmingly, a pipeline 15 years younger and owned by the same company spilled almost 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. A University of Michigan study concluded the Straits of Mackinac is the worst place for an oil spill, risking 700 miles of freshwater coastline.
Line 5 should be decommissioned, without replacement, immediately.
I am a Michigan native and work for Patagonia, Inc., which makes apparel for outdoor recreation. Patagonia is part of an outdoor industry that generates $887 billion per year nationally, including $110 billion in the Great Lakes region alone.
To say our industry relies on healthy ecosystems is both an understatement as it is a mandate. So we use our position to connect businesses, nonprofits, and our customers to protect the environment, including the Great Lakes. We have advocated for cleanup funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, supported Great Lakes Water Summits, and granted over $400,000 to Great Lakes organizations.
We depend on a healthy environment to thrive. We love being in nature for respite and adventure alike. Our customers recreate in wilderness, taking our gear from the highest peaks to the most remote surf breaks. The health of our business is intrinsically linked to the health of the planet.
Last year, I helped produce a film called Great Lakes, Bad Lines, traveling the length of Line 5 from Duluth to the Straits. We sailed in Lake Superior, near where 290 gallons spilled in 1992. We biked to the Sylvania Wilderness Area, near where 285,000 gallons spilled in the Ottawa National Forest in 1968. These are just a few of Line 5’s 29 spills totaling 1 million gallons uncovered by a recent report by the National Wildlife Federation. And when we surfed the northern shore of Lake Michigan and sailed the Straits, we were directly above where a 2003 Enbridge report noted 16 unsupported pipeline spans greater than the allowable length, including one four times the allowable length. Pipeline experts say this could have weakened the structural integrity of the pipeline as it has been pummeled by currents greater than the force of the Niagara Falls for decades.
This is not an anti-oil issue; it’s about building sustainable economies. It’s not a partisan issue, but protecting our freshwater resources. It is not a localized issue, but one affecting everyone who has ever enjoyed nature in its pure state. It’s a moral issue and a chance to stand up for the future we want to leave for future generations.
Join Patagonia in calling for the State of Michigan to terminate the easement allowing Line 5 to jeopardize our Great Lakes. Go to: oilandwaterdontmix.org and submit your comments by Friday.