Enbridge buys huge ad in Detroit News, says not to worry about Line 5 pipeline


Could Enbridge be overcompensating for something?

The Canadian oil giant took out a nearly full-page color ad on page 20A in Thursday's Detroit News touting the safety of its Line 5 pipeline. The timing here is interesting: the ad follows Metro Times' recent cover story on the fight to shut down the controversial 62-year-old pipeline located on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, and a recent Detroit Free Press report that warned that typical wave conditions could delay a spill response by hours or even days.

It also comes at the heels of Monday's public meeting of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, a state-appointed group tasked with analyzing the safety of Michigan's pipeline system. The day of the meeting, law and policy center FLOW released a report that concluded decommissioning Line 5 would not disrupt Midwest energy needs.

The ad takes the form of a Q&A, with a golden word ballon posing a question attributed to an anonymous Lewiston resident: "Since Line 5 is under water, how do you monitor it?"

A bold headline responds: "Whether under ground or under water, Line 5 is monitored 24/7." Another block of copy says, "The Great Lakes are an important resource, and that's why it's so important to do everything we can to keep them safe." (Aside from eliminating the risk altogether by decommissioning the pipeline, of course.)

The rest of the copy goes on to explain Enbridge's safety measures employed on Line 5, which includes inline inspection tools called "smart pigs" that travel inside the tubes, using technology similar to MRI machines to analyze the integrity of the pipe walls. The ad also says the line could be shut down within a matter of minutes if a problem was detected, and that the company has partnered with Michigan Technological University to develop new methods of monitoring the pipeline.

We can't help but wonder if the ad could have the opposite of its intended effect, however — if, like Shakespeare's Queen Gertrude, Enbridge doth protest too much. In other words, the ad calls attention to Line 5's flaws instead of assuring the public of its safety. If someone saw it and didn't know about the Line 5 controversy, they know now.

Concern about Line 5 has grown following Enbridge's 2010 disaster, in which another one of the company's pipelines ruptured and spilled nearly one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River outside of Marshall, Mich. It took the company 18 hours to learn of the spill.

Additionally, new studies of the current patterns in the Straits of Mackinac have caused some scientists to conclude that an oil spill there would be particularly worrisome, with particles having an equal probability of flowing into either Lake Huron or Michigan. 

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