Proposal by Steven Lesha: Enbridge Pipeline 5 and a Potential Oil Spill


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

My website: Proposal by Steven Lesha: Enbridge Pipeline 5 and a Potential Oil Spill Website


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).






Describe the specific issue or problem, being sure to provide sufficient context so that someone less familiar with the issue has a sense of the bigger picture, but know that your focus here is on a more detailed spelling out of the specific problem or issue that you’ve identified. (250 words minimum)

Two 65 year-old pipelines, transporting 540,000 barrels of light crude oil, synthetic light oil, and natural gas liquids per day from Superior Wisconsin to Sarnia, Michigan and Canada, sit below the Straits of Mackinac. These two pipelines are known as Pipeline 5. Line 5 is a critical component of Michigan’s energy infrastructure, generating 55% of the state’s propane and supplying numerous homes with heat. Despite its importance, the condition of the Pipeline has deteriorated; there have been 29 oil spills from Pipeline 5 since its creation. Additionally, there are many cracks in the pipes, the wall thickness has decreased by as much as 26% in some areas, and the support system has had problems. These are indicative of an oil spill into the Great Lakes. A potential oil spill underneath the Straits pose a significant environmental, economic, and social threat. According to Professor Schwab at the University of Michigan, the Straits are the worst place for a spill. Oil released into the environment in this area can spread and affect a significant portion of the state’s shoreline. This would have consequential results on Michigan residents. First, in regards to the environment, this would affect the animals and people using the lake for food and water. Additionally, it would pollute the source of 20% of the world’s fresh water supply. Second, 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages are directly dependent on the Great Lakes. Pollution to Lake Michigan and Huron would depress many industries, including tourism, and result in job loss and reduced wages. This would decrease overall spending in the state, thereby affecting the entire economy. When considering students in the state, this would make it more difficult to obtain jobs. Third, the Great Lakes are a great source of social pleasure for many Michigan residents. Pollution to the lakes would make it unsafe to use the shoreline. The goal of this proposal is to find a more effective solution that appeases Enbridge and is in the best interest of the residents of Michigan.

I primarily used the sources listed in my media artifact for the statistics. 

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.


Michigan and Enbridge can work together on a plan to lean off of Pipeline 5 through increasing the energy obtained from sustainable sources in the state. The goal would be for the pipeline to be decommissioned and fully replaced with Enbridge-produced sustainable energy (i.e. from solar panels, wind turbines, etc.) by 2030. Between now and Line 5’s decommissioning, Enbridge would increase their transparency regarding the pipeline, and ensure that the pipeline meets state and federal codes. This plan would be beneficial for both the state of Michigan and Enbridge.

The state of Michigan would benefit from this. First, there would be a decrease in risk associated with a potential oil spill in the Great Lakes. Enbridge would closely monitor the pipeline to ensure its structural integrity and prevent a spill. Additionally, the threat would be completely eliminated in 2030. Second, many jobs would be created to develop this sustainable energy infrastructure. Third, Michigan would become significantly more sustainable.

This would also be beneficial to Enbridge. The company has been dedicated (to a certain degree) to sustainability, and has focused on gaining market share in the eco-friendly energy industry. For example, they have been building multiple solar energy farms. This shows that Enbridge has the capability to replace Pipeline 5 with sustainable sources and that it may be beneficial for them to enter this industry. Additionally, the tax structure for energy partnerships, including Enbridge, has worsened in the last week. This has complex implications that can be simplified to Enbridge possibly wanting to enter the sustainable energy industry; furthermore, it may be difficult for Enbridge to replace Line 5 with a new pipeline. Therefore, it may be advantageous for the company to work with the state. Finally, Enbridge can see this as an investment in a growing sector.

In conclusion, Michigan is dependent on Enbridge for their power, and Enbridge generates much revenue from within the state. As a result, the two entities can work together to reduce the risk of an oil spill, while ensuring that Enbridge does not suffer economic setbacks.



Michigan could immediately set a plan for the decommissioning of Pipeline 5. Oil flow through the pipeline could probably be halted in a year or two. This time should be sufficient time for another company, or even Enbridge, to increase their oil flow into the state. This would likely lead to a slight increase in prices; however, there would be little risk of a shortage. Additionally, the state could probably get away with doing this on the grounds that Enbridge has violated their easement agreement with the state, as they have not provided sufficient information.

This would effectively eliminate the problem at hand, as there would not be oil flowing underneath the Straits of Mackinac, provided that the state prohibits the construction of a new pipeline underneath the Straits. Therefore, there would be little threat to the tourism industry, the environment, and social activities on the lakes.

There are some risks to this. First, there could be international backlash as Enbridge is technically a Canadian company and the pipeline eventually feeds into Canada. Second, the lost oil would be replaced through building another pipeline or by increasing the oil flow in an existing pipeline. The former carries the risk of an oil spill in the area that the new pipeline is built. The latter increases the stress on the pipeline thereby raising the risk of the pipe bursting.



Michigan can set standards to increase Enbridge’s transparency regarding their pipeline. This plan would have three main components. The first would be that every week, Enbridge would have to report on: the wall thickness of the pipeline at various points, the stress on the pipeline, the quality of the support beams, and other indicators that show the strength of the pipes. Second, Enbridge would have to pay additional taxes, so that the state can fund annual, independent studies on the Line 5. These would show an unbiased opinion of Pipeline 5 and the likelihood of a spill. Third, the state of Michigan would have the right to shut down the pipeline if either of these reports show a breach of pipeline standards.

This would reduce the likelihood of a spill, as the state would be aware of the risks related to the pipeline and would have the right to shut off the flow of oil from the pipeline if the risk increases too much. While this would not eliminate the risk, it will reduce the threats to the environment and tourism industry, without increasing the cost of energy. 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.


Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.


Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?



The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.




(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).





(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?




Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  



These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.


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