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Critics use anniversary of 2010 oil spill to protest Mackinac Straits tunnel project

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Activists are using this week’s 9th anniversary of the Kalamazoo River oil spillto dramatize their opposition to a proposed oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The 2010 oil spill started when a pipeline near Marshall broke and started spewing crude oil.  The oil reached the Kalamazoo River, eventually spreading over about 30 miles of the river.   The cleanup took several years. 

On Thursday, protesters chanted “Enbridge has got to go” outside the offices of the pipeline company’s lobbyist in Lansing.  

Cayley Winters is with Progress Michigan. She says we need to learn from the Enbridge pipeline break near Marshall nearly a decade ago.

“The 1.2 million gallons of oil that was spilled into the Kalamazoo River must be a lesson,” says Winters, “not only for Enbridge,  not only for Kalamazoo, Marshall and Battle Creek, but for our entire state our businesses and our elected officials.”

Enbridge spent more than a billion dollars on the cleanup of the 2010 oil spill.

To avoid another oil spill, the activists want the planned Mackinac Straits pipeline tunnel cancelled.

But an Enbridge spokesman says the company remains committed to moving forward with the tunnel project, and hopes to complete construction in 2024.

"The tunnel solution is the best long-term opportunity to secure the energy needs of the state while making an already safe pipeline even safer,” says Ryan Duffy, Enbridge spokesman.

The tunnel would replace the current underwater pipeline.

However, activist Jeff Insko says the pipeline’s owner can’t be trusted.

“For almost a decade now, Enbridge has exhibited a pattern of behavior that indicates they will say or do almost anything to advance their own interests,” says Insko.

The future of the tunnel project is unclear.

Last month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. The lawsuit argues the pipeline poses the potential of a catastrophic oil spill.

Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio’s corporate sponsors.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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