The protest at Standing Rock and the controversy surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline has focused attention on pipelines and the vast network of infrastructure which enables fossil fuel extraction and production. These issues are not new, and an important question is why Standing Rock galvanized so much attention and concern, when similar conflicts related to development, environmental hazards, property rights, and native sovereignty often remain ignored.
Here is a news story related to an existing, 60-year-old pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy that passes under Lake Michigan.
- Chuck Quirmbach, “Oil Pipeline Under Lake Michigan Heads for More Scrutiny,” Wisconsin Public Radio, December 7, 2016.
The pipeline enters Wisconsin in Superior and then runs across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and along the shoreline of Lake Michigan before crossing into the lower part of Michigan. Enbridge operates a recently upgraded pumping station near Mackinaw City, Michigan.
A major oil leak from the pipeline along the shore of Lake Michigan would have significant environmental health consequences. The National Wildlife Federation has spearheaded a lawsuit challenging the 2013 approval of a “spill response plan” by federal regulators. According to the article, “Enbridge has a history of relatively minor spills in Wisconsin and a major one from another line a few years ago near Marshall, Michigan.”