Enbridge pipeline loss would be 'unnoticed', new pipeline would cost $41 billion in climate damage, advocates say

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Modest impacts: Enbridge Energy has argued that a shutdown of its Line 5 pipeline, which runs through the Straits of Mackinac, could have a serious impact on energy prices in Canada. This is likely untrue, according to a new report commissioned by the environmental group Environmental Defence Canada. “The impact of these changes on consumer prices for refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel in Ontario and Quebec would likely be very modest, to the point that such changes would likely go unnoticed,” the report reads. Rail, truck, and marine tanker capacity could make up for lost capacity from a Line 5 shutdown, and Line 78, running from Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario, where Line 5 also terminates, could also be run at a greater capacity. (Bridge Michigan, press release)

Cost of oil: In other Line 5 news, the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, is considering climate change impacts as it decides whether to allow Enbridge to move the pipeline into a tunnel underneath the straits. The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Michigan Climate Action Network, interveners in Enbridge’s tunnel permitting case before the MPSC, filed a brief last week claiming that a new pipeline project would lead to an increase of 27 million metric tons CO2 annually, costing an estimated $41 billion or more in climate costs from 2027 to 2070. Environmental groups argue that transporting oil by rail and other methods could raise prices and reduce overall demand. Jonathan Overpeck, the Dean at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, says consumers will also pay both for the construction of the new pipeline and the emissions from all the oil it transports. “It makes no sense to spend the money, the investment that we as consumers will have to pay to build this infrastructure that then will essentially screw us going forward with even more costs associated with climate change,” he said. (MI Radio)

Icing over: On February 5, the Great Lakes reached an average ice cover of 44.42% across all five lakes, well above the projection of 12.3% from early January. More cold weather could ice over a larger percentage of the lakes, which usually reach peak ice cover in February or early March. Still, this year’s average provides further evidence of declining ice cover. During an average winter, 50% of the Great Lakes freeze over and scientists have observed that the annual average has fallen 22% since 1972. Although a group of scientists from U.S. and Canadian universities are undertaking a major collection of data on the lakes this winter, questions persist about what the declining ice levels mean.“There (is) so much unknown in terms of the implications of loss of ice cover for many areas, including ecology, fishery, weather (and) physical processes,” said Ayumi Fujisaki-Manome, an assistant research scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research. (Great Lakes Now)

Wither the gnar? Chief executives at the Boyne Mountain and Crystal Mountain ski resorts in northern Michigan say faster action is needed to stave off the worst of climate change and protect Michigan businesses. “ I would say, generally speaking, the winters are getting shorter. And we’re having… higher average temperatures throughout the winter. And so, we’re relying more and more on snowmaking,” said Jim MacInnes, chief executive officer of Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Meteorologists have been noting a decline in snowfall during the “shoulder seasons” of late fall and early spring, limiting the length of the ski season. MacInnes and Stephen Kircher, CEO of Boyne Mountain, co-authored an opinion piece urging a faster transition to renewable energy and a carbon tax for polluters. Auden Schendler, senior vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company in Colorado, says that even with snowmaking and efficiency measures, the nation’s ski industry will cease to be viable by 2050. (MLive, WZZM13, Record-Eagle)

County climate plan: Washtenaw County is working on a climate plan with the goal of making county operations carbon neutral by 2030 and achieving county-wide carbon neutrality by 2035. Andrew DeLeeuw, Washtenaw County director of strategic planning, says the county is engaging in 55 community and organizational meetings to develop the climate plan and will include a vulnerability assessment as a way to identify parts of the county that are most at risk from climate impacts like flooding. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan has a plan to eliminate “scope 1” emissions created by the university power plant and other infrastructure by 2040, with interim targets for “scope 2” emissions from off-campus electricity and “scope 3” emissions” from a variety sources associated with university operations. However, Tom Porter, a former lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a member of the group Voices for Carbon Neutrality, says the university isn’t moving fast enough to implement its goals. “We’re off to a bad start on day one,” he said. “We could create the greatest plans anytime the University of Michigan puts its mind to it, but it’s not real until they act on it.” However, the Office of Campus Sustainability notes some progress, saying the university has nearly met its target for reducing emissions by 25% from 2006 levels by 2025. (WEMU, Michigan Daily)

What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org. NOTE: Please don't reply directly to this email, it will go into a digital netherworld.

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