Students Petition WH to Shut Down Enbridge Pipeline Line 5
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Students attending W-A-Y Academy in Detroit are seeking 100,000 signatures on a petition asking President Obama to shut down Enbridge’s line 5 pipeline.
W-A-Y Academy offers a personalized learning experience for 9th – 12th grade students, offering an innovative approach to education, one that encourages self-esteem, independence, and the development of 21st century skills that will facilitate a college education and subsequent career paths. At W-A-Y Academy, the teachers are referred to as ‘experts’ and the students as ‘researchers.’
The lesson plans at W-A-Y Academy are co-created with the researchers and the experts. While working on air quality issues, the researchers began learning about the Line 5 pipeline. As a part of it, U.S. Senate Green Party Candidate, Chris Wahmhoff was invited to talk with the researchers. “The petition was not part of the original lesson plan. It came up in communication between Chris Wahmhoff and the students. They ran with it! However, the refinery where the tar sands are processed is very near the school,” said W-A-Y Academy ‘Expert,’ Heather Layne, Detroit.
See Related Article About Chris Wahmhoff: MICATS Activist Runs for U.S. Senate
Through an online petition, the students are expressing their concern and a desire for action on the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, a 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline which runs through Michigan under the Straits of Mackinac, transporting oil from Western Canada to Sarnia, Ontario.
Even though the pipeline does not run near the school, Layne said, “It is between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, so if it were leak it would affect all of Michigan.”
The petition reads:
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
SHUT DOWN LINE 5 NOW!
The students of W-A-Y Academy petition to cease operation of Line 5, that was built to carry gas and now carries oil which creates a higher pressure.
Built in 1953, Line 5 is a 645 mile pipeline that travels under the Straits of Mackinaw. The original pipeline has never been replaced. According to Enbridge, the company that owns Line 5, it remains in good condition.(1) However, they have had 800 oil spills between 99 – 2010.(2) One of these spills was in July 2010 and led ultimately into the Kalamazoo River, resulting in the largest in land oil spill in US history.(3)
“Due to where Line 5 is located, an oil spill there would devastate our Great Lakes water system.”
Concerns About the Potential for Another Spill
The students at W-A-Y Academy already have great reason to be concerned about pollution. The Detroit Free Press reports that 48217 is the most polluted zip code in Michigan. According to the EPA, 48217 is the 3rd most polluted zip code in the United States. W-A-Y Academy is located less than 3 miles away. Industrial companies surrounding W-A-Y Academy include a Marathon Oil Refinery, Severstal Steel, a Detroit Edison Coal Plant, U.S. Steel, U.S. Gypsum, Koch Carbon, and the Detroit Wastewater Plant.
According the the activist group, MICATS, Enbridge incurred 22 violations with the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill, including failure to immediately report the spill to local authorities. The 2010 spill resulted in the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history to date.
In December 2013, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), urged the Department of Transportation to verify the safety of an expansion of the pipeline’s capacity which was increased from 490,000 to 540,000 barrels (78,000 to 86,000 m3) by making adjustments to the pumping stations, but with no changes to the pipes.
The Senators stated:
“If the [line 5] pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac were to leak or burst, it could have devastating effects on the Great Lakes and the entire region’s economy.”
Students Speaking Out
According to MICATS, heavy industry has coerced many residents in the 48217 zip code into signing non-disclosure agreements, forbidding them from speaking out about how they have been affected by industry pollution.
But the ‘researchers’ at W-A-Y Academy are speaking out. “They will be doing a workshop at the [Converge for Climate] event (see schedule) in New York City with Wahmhoff where they will introduce the petition and talk about the issues,” said Layne. W-A-Y Academy utilizes the Project Based Learning method. “During the workshop the researchers will be learning ELA (English Language Arts). One thing our school emphasizes is real world presentation, and application of knowledge,” said Layne.
Layne said, “350.org covered $1000 for the transportation, the kids did a Go Fund Me and raised a couple hundred there and the school covered the rest.” The researchers will also participate in the march to handout info cards with an URL barcode that takes people directly to the site.
The right to petition the government is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Obama administration launched the We the People web site to facilitate online petitioning.
[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”raised” width=”400px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”I feel like I have already lost my voice to the pollution, but I want to be heard” (Paraphrased from a W-A-Y Academy researcher)[/dropshadowbox]
According to the We The People web site, if a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, and send it to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response. Most petitions which cross the signature threshold can expect a response, but usually the response will come from White House administration officials. Only occasionally will President respond directly to a petition.
“Any response at all will thrill them, although of course hearing from the President would ROCK! Meeting the 100,000 signatures is a great accomplishment in itself and will be cause for celebration,” said Layne.
At the time of this report, the petition has 67 signatures within a week of when it was created. The White House requires that a petition reach 150 signatures within 30 days of when it is posted. Once it reaches 150 signatures, the petition can be found at the site using the search tool. Next, the petition must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days of when it was posted in order to cross the threshold that would require a response.