Groups Ramp Up Campaign to Raise Awareness of Pipeline Risk in Great Lakes

July 23, 2014 | |

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—More than a dozen allied environmental groups launched a new website and TV commercial outlining the environmental and economic threats posed by two aging oil pipelines crossing through the Great Lakes at the Mackinac Straits.

The website,, features the new commercial and details the danger posed by the daily flow of nearly 23 million gallons of oil through pipelines lying on the bottom of the Straits just west of the Mackinac Bridge. The 30-second television commercial is being aired across northern Michigan on broadcast and cable television, alerting viewers of the risk and pointing them to the website to take action.

“Michigan residents are shocked when they learn of the risk of a massive oil spill in the Straits—the very heart of the Great Lakes,” said Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute, which designed the website in partnership with a host of Michigan and Midwest environmental organizations. “These pipelines should never have been allowed. It’s urgent that we send a message to our leaders that this risk is unacceptable.”

The website and TV commercial are part of a ramped-up “Oil and Water Don’t Mix” campaign launched this week to raise awareness of the unacceptable risks posed by the pipelines. Built in 1953 during the Eisenhower administration, the twin pipelines are now owned by Canadian company Enbridge, Inc., the same company responsible for spilling 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010—the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix website encourages citizens to sign on to a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder urging immediate state action to regulate Enbridge’s “Line 5”

“Governor Snyder has the express authority and perpetual duty to protect the public trust waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes for all of us,” said well-known environmental attorney Jim Olson, the president of FLOW, who co-authored the letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. “We are asking him to exercise this authority.”

The website also announces plans by the allied environmental groups to raise awareness of the pipeline issue during the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day. Residents and visitors planning to walk the bridge are encouraged to show their concern about a potential oil spill at the Straits by wearing an Oil & Water Don’t Mix T-shirt or hat, which are being offered online.

Organizations partnered with the Michigan Land Use Institute in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign include the Michigan Environmental Council, FLOW (For Love of Water), the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, the Sierra Club of Michigan, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center. A full list of organizations can be found online. 


The two 20-inch-in-diameter “Line 5” pipelines owned by Canadian company Enbridge, Inc., run under the Mackinac Straits about 1,000 feet apart at depths ranging from 100 to 270 feet. Enbridge installed several support structures under the pipelines in 2006 and again in 2010, following the company’s oil spill into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge officials have said that properly maintained pipelines can last indefinitely, but the company’s history of major spills in Michigan and across North America proves otherwise. Today, most of the oil flowing through the Line 5 pipelines is coming from Canada and taking a shortcut through Michigan and the Straits of Mackinac before crossing back into Canada near Port Huron.

The pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac cross one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world. The Great Lakes are home to 20 percent of the fresh surface water on the planet. The pristine Straits area supports bountiful fisheries, provides drinking water to thousands of people, and anchors a thriving tourism industry with historic and beautiful Mackinac Island in the center of it all.


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