MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WJBK) - The fresh blue water of the Straits of Mackinac is at risk. A five mile long pair of 63-year-old Enbridge oil pipelines lie alongside the Mackinac Bridge, and some call them ticking time bombs.
University of Michigan scientist have told us in our continuing coverage of Line 5, that this is the worst possible place to put oil pipelines in the Great Lakes due to the strait's strong and unpredictable current. Enbridge, the company responsible for the Kalamazoo River Oil spill, says they're safe.
For two months, we have asked Governor Rick Snyder what he plans to do to be proactive and prevent a possible catastrophe. We did not receive a response, so we followed him to the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference.
"Should people be concerned about Line 5?" FOX 2's Hannah Saunders asked him.
"Well, again, concern is an appropriate word to use. And work is being done to address those concerns," he said.
In June of 2014, the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Taskforce was formed to look into the safety of Line 5. The Governor says two studies are currently underway.
"One is a risk assessment to look at what are the issues, what are the risks associated with it. The second one is an alternatives study to say, if there's no Pipeline 5, how would fuels get transported? What does that mean to the Michigan economy, the national economy, and what the options are?" he said.
According to a report by the task force overseen by Snyder, the Governor has the right and the legal tools to initiate a court order and shut down the line.
"You have the authority to shut it down at any time, why don't you?" Hannah asked.
"Well I'm not sure I would necessarily agree with it being as simple as that. So again, we're doing the study, we're doing it in a prudent fashion and a collaborative fashion," he said.
"Until this study is done can you guarantee the people of Michigan there won't be an oil spill in the Great Lakes?" Hannah asked.
"You can't guarantee those things. Again, this pipeline has been there for a very long time, and that's why I said there is reason for concern," Gov. Snyder said.
On top of the economic concerns Gov. Snyder mentioned, studies show an oil spill could affect more than 700 miles of shoreline, contaminate drinking water, destroy wildlife and ruin much of the iconic tourism, also affecting jobs and the economy all over the state. Enbridge says some jobs would also be lost if the Line were to shut down. Most of the oil is served to Canada. The small amount of oil and propane that stays in Michigan would have to be sourced from somewhere else.
Several environmental groups are suing over the Line, claiming Enbridge is in violation of its 1953 Easement Agreement with the state.
When FOX 2's time was up with the Governor, we sought the director of the MDEQ and co-chair of the task force to ask when a decision would be made.
"We'll look at about a 12 month response, a 12-18 month response, and in the interim we'll continue to put safety measures in place. We'll make sure we do the emergency exercises, make sure there's equipment on site, make sure there's appropriate monitoring," MDEQ Director Keigh Creagh said.
Hannah reports senators and other congressmen at the conference believe they are also taking action and introducing bills to get the federal government involved.