Enbridge Over Troubled Water

  • Kenny Bruno, Cathy Collentine, Doug Hayes, Jim Murphy, Paul Blackburn, Andy Pearson, Anthony Swift, Winona Laduke, Elizabeth Ward, Carl Whiting
  • Feb 22, 2016

This report details the significant risks posed by Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge’s pipeline system to the Great Lakes region. As the report details, Enbridge owns and operates a labyrinth of pipelines that wend their way through the Great Lakes region. This system creates a massive risk to waters and communities in the pipelines’ paths. It also imperils the planet’s climate.

Many of Enbridge’s pipelines already carry syncrude from destructive tar sands mining and heavy toxic tar sands oil that would have been carried by the now rejected Keystone XL pipeline — both highly carbon polluting substances. Enbridge is currently carrying out plans to more than double the amount of nearly impossible to clean up tar sands oil flowing under and near the lakes, streams, wetlands and communities of the region.

Keystone XL was rejected due in large part to the fact that it would have enabled more tar sands oil production and more carbon pollution. Tar sands oil is about 20% more carbon polluting than regular oil on a well to wheel basis. With all major countries, including the U.S. and Canada, aspiring to a goal of allowing no more than 1.5 degrees C of warming, tar sands oil simply cannot be developed in any substantial amount. This is why rejecting Keystone XL was the only choice if we are to meet these climate saving goals.

Like TransCanada’s Keystone XL was properly rejected, the Enbridge GXL tar sands expansion must also be stopped. Enbridge GXL would increase tar sands oil transport into the Great Lakes region by about 1.1 million bpd — substantially more oil than was proposed for the rejected Keystone XL Pipeline. While Keystone XL was in the political spotlight, Enbridge was working behind closed doors with regulators to avoid the type of public environmental review that ultimately and appropriately led to the denial of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Enbridge is already bringing additional tar sands across the border. It plans to move it with new and existing pipelines throughout the Great Lakes to destinations as far as the Gulf Coast and East Coast. The extreme risks of tar sands to waters and communities have recently been confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences1 which found that tar sands transported as largely unrefined diluted bitumen is nearly impossible to clean up when it spills. And this heavy oil will inevitably spill, as it did in July of 2010 into the Kalamazoo River, a disaster that nearly reached Lake Michigan and pollutes stretches of the river to this day. In fact, since 2005, Enbridge has been responsible for 763 spills, totaling 93,852 barrels of both light and heavy crude, including tar sands crude, which have spilled and devastated local waterways. 

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This report details the following features of Enbridge’s GXL system:

  • ALBERTA CLIPPER DOUBLE CROSS SCHEME. Enbridge has already doubled the amount of tar sands coming over the border on its transboundary Alberta Clipper line, getting backdoor approval from the State Department to manipulate its border crossing to pour more tar sands oil into the United States and undermine any meaningful review of that expansion. A coalition of tribes and environmental groups challenged this scheme in federal court, but a judge ruled the State Department’s approval of this scheme was not subject to court review.
  • LINE 3 ABANDONMENT IN MINNESOTA. Enbridge is planning to build a new line in a new corridor through Minnesota’s pristine lake country and then abandon its old Line 3, a corroding pipeline built in the late1960s. This would allow Enbridge to bring an additional 370,000 bpd of tar sands across the border.
  • LINES 61 AND 66—WISCONSIN, THE TAR SANDS ARTERY. In order to move all the extra tar sands oil Enbridge wants to move across the border throughout the United States, Enbridge plans to expand a major tar sands oil artery that cuts through the heart of Wisconsin, by expanding an existing pipeline and building a new one next to it. This expansion would link pipelines in Minnesota to a web of pipelines in Illinois that would then allow tar sands oil to spiderweb through a series of pipelines and refineries that stretch from Portland, Maine to Houston, Texas and beyond.
  • LINE 5—RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH THE STRAITS OF MACKINAC. Enbridge continues to carry oil on an aging line that runs along the bottom of the treasured, oftfrozen and remote Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Michigan and Huron. While the line does not currently carry dilbit, it does carry syncrude which presents different but considerable risks. A spill from this line could permanently foul one of America’s most pristine and treasured resources.
  • SANDPIPER—FRACKED OIL FOLLY. Enbridge is eager to move fracked oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota though a new pipeline to be placed parallel to the proposed Line 3 replacement. The proposed Sandpiper line would traverse and put at risk land and pristine lakes, rivers, and streams treasured by tribes and outdoor lovers alike, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Enbridge Over Troubled Water

The Enbridge GXL System's Threat to the Great Lakes


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