There were at least two big lessons to be learned from the Flint Water crisis, and we have the opportunity to apply them both in deciding the best course of action for Line 5, the pipeline that carries petroleum products along the floor of the Straits of Mackinac.
Lesson #1: Listen to the local residents. Line 5 currently carries a significant amount of the energy, particularly propane, that heats the homes of Upper Peninsula residents. Simply shutting down the line may seem a fine idea to us warm and toasty lower Michigan folks — and it may in fact be workable. But if you've lived in the UP, you know that winter (to paraphrase Garrison Keillor talking about Minnesota winters) is actively trying to kill you. Particularly January and February. So if there is a plan, it needs to be specified and discussed in detail before it is implemented and with contingency plans for after it is implemented.
Lesson #2: Don't fall in love with the idea. A simple consideration: If kids are being poisoned, switching to that new system may not have been the best decision. It's crazy to think how long the poisoning went on before enough political will was formed to begin to stop it. But you see a similar storm brewing here. The plan to dig a tunnel was made at the end of last year. It's a done deal! Chiseled in stone! Can't change it! We must stay with it no matter what! SCIENCE IS ON OUR SIDE! (Pul-eeze! If it were truly about science, we wouldn't be talking about expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure. Line 5 would have been decommissioned years ago because of the plentiful and inexpensive alternative energy sources we invested in when we got serious about climate change.)
Perhaps as reminder, a field trip to Flint could be arranged for the governor and state legislators. That's something as a taxpayer I'd be more than willing to cover.
John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.
In full disclosure, Enbridge Energy is one of Michigan Radio's many corporate sponsors.