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Health, Science and Environment

New study estimates a 45 billion dollar impact to U.S. economy if Line 5 pipeline breaks

Kate Ter Haar

A new study released Tuesday by an environmental group claims an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could cost the U.S. 45 billion dollars.

The study expands on previous research released earlier this year by Michigan State University, which estimated 6 billion in direct economic impact if the Line 5 pipeline beneath the straits were to break.

Kelly Thayer is with For the Love of Water, which commissioned the study. He said the study shows shipping would halt for fifteen days in the straits of Mackinac.

“There would be an all stop to shipping not only through the straits of Mackinac but because of oil getting into the St. Mary's River it would close the Soo Locks. “

Robert Richardson conducted the study. He said a conservative estimate shows a spill would shut down shipping through the Soo Locks for 12 days.

“These folks from the coast guard and the Lake Carriers Association have confirmed that this would close down vessel traffic and have a major impact on the widespread shipping economy including ports, steel mills, and the automotive industry.”

Richardson said the chance of oil reaching the St. Mary’s river is above 25% if there is an oil spill.

He said his model is based on conservative estimates.

“The continuation of the use of this aging pipeline for several years to come is posing a risk and playing gamble with the regional economy.”

In a written statement, officials with Enbridge Energy, which oversees Line 5, said they are focused on a solution and that placing the pipeline in a tunnel would reduce the likelihood of a release into the straits.

You can read their full statement below:

Enbridge is focused on moving forward with a solution, and we believe that the time is right to build for the future. The tunnel project would make a safe pipeline even safer and reflects Enbridge’s steadfast commitment to protecting the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs. New infrastructure that connects the peninsulas will continue to put Michigan at the forefront of Great Lakes stewardship and will enhance the region’s economic prosperity through energy security.

Placing Line 5 in a tunnel would reduce the likelihood of a release into the Straits to near zero and eliminate the potential for an anchor strike.

You can find the study here: