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New Year brings renewed concerns over Great Lakes Line 5 project

The Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline runs for four miles on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, carrying millions of gallons of crude each day from Canada to Michigan.
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The Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline runs for four miles on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, carrying millions of gallons of crude each day from Canada to Michigan.

The New Year brings a chorus of familiar concerns about the risks of building a 21-foot diameter tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for oil and gas pipelines.

It has been just over a month since the Michigan Public Service Commission ruled Enbridge Energy could install a new 30-inch diameter pipeline segment in its Great Lakes Tunnel project. But local residents said the decision puts communities and the environment at risk of spills. Enbridge said it would deactivate existing dual pipelines once the new line is installed.

Sean McBrearty, with the advocacy group Oil and Water Don't Mix, said continuing the project risks adverse outcomes.

"Anything short of a shutdown is a grave threat to our environment, tourism, fishing, shipping and Great Lakes' way of life," McBrearty contended.

Enbridge Energy said the Great Lakes Tunnel would keep energy flowing safely to Michiganders and minimize spill risks. McBrearty disagreed, noting the 2010 pipeline rupture was, he said, among the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history.

Oil and Water Don't Mix is planning a "Day of Updates, Education and Action" Jan. 18 in East Lansing.

The Public Service Commission released a statement, saying, "Other modes of transporting Line 5's products -- such as by truck, rail, oil tanker or barges -- likely would increase environmental impairment," including spill risks.

Beth Wallace, Great Lakes freshwater campaign manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said there are plenty of independent reports pointing to alternative options.

"Enbridge's bid or effort to operate this pipeline until failure not only risks critical rights to people, but also important critical habitat to endangered and threatened species across the region," Wallace asserted.

Line 5 transports light crude oil and natural gas liquids, including propane used for home heating in Michigan. Its average capacity is 540,000 barrels per day.

Born and raised in Canada to an early Pakistani immigrant family, Farah Siddiqi was naturally drawn to the larger purpose of making connections and communicating for public reform. She moved to America in 2000 spending most of her time in California and Massachusetts. She has also had the opportunity to live abroad and travel to over 20 countries. She is a multilingual communicator with on-air experience as a reporter/anchor/producer for television, web and radio across multiple markets including USA, Canada, Dubai, and Hong Kong. She recently moved back to America with a unique International perspective and understanding. She finds herself making Nashville, Tennessee her new home, and hopes to continue her passion for philanthropy and making connections to help bridge misunderstandings specifically with issues related to race, ethnicity, interfaith and an overall sense of belonging,
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