Author: Beryl Skrocki, owner of Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak
I had the honor of representing the Great Lakes Business Network at the March 13th, 2017 Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in Lansing. The room was literally overflowing with more than 300 people who were there to express their concern about Line 5 and encourage its decommissioning. The Board heard testimony from more than 20 citizens and organizational representatives calling on the State to enforce the easement and protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill, with many others who wanted to speak turned away due to time constraints. It was heartening to see that level of citizen passion.
The role of the Great Lakes Business Network became especially clear as a couple representatives from the oil and manufacturing industry spoke, reciting numbers about the jobs they provide and the importance of oil to our economy. As these industry lobbyists tried to defend the risk of Line 5 at the Straits, they leaned on jobs and economic numbers to imply that their industry would be damaged by a rational decommissioning of this one pipeline that should never have been constructed.
That’s why it’s so important that Michigan’s other business leaders bring our voices to this issue. While we all share personal passion for the Great Lakes, as business owners we also provide a powerful economic counter-argument to the oil industry lobbyists that are downplaying the risks and exaggerating the importance of Line 5 to our economy.
We can describe how collectively Michigan businesses connected to Great Lakes water provide nearly one million jobs, and $60 billion in economic impact (Michigan Blue Economy report, 2015). And we can also describe the importance of those jobs to our local communities. We are all working hard to create jobs and support Michigan’s economy, and this pipeline puts our businesses at risk. In fact, Michigan’s businesses and citizens are taking all of the risk for this pipeline while the economic benefits are returned mostly to Canada. It is not reasonable for us to assume all this risk with so little reward.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with other business leaders on this important issue, and remind our elected officials of the importance of protecting our Great Lakes. I look forward to seeing more businesses join the Great Lakes Business Network to pursue action from our state leaders to decommission Line 5 to protect the Great Lakes and preserve our clean water economy.