By Mark Breederland

Crude oil moves through MichigCrude_Movean and the Great Lakes watershed 24/7 in a variety of ways. A series of four recently recorded webinars entitled “Crude Move” discusses many of the issues, risks, interests, and options for the transportation of crude oil.

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, which includes programs in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana, put the series together. With the strong interest in the Line 5 pipeline which crosses the Straits of Mackinac, presentations from academic and other experts can help inform and educate many on the interconnectivity and demands from oil as a key commodity impacting our social, economic and environmental well-being.

Potential spills anywhere in the Great Lakes basin watershed can pose risks to the world’s freshwater seas and our communities. Crude oil is moved by pipeline, rail, ship or barge, and truck. Hazardous cargo such as crude oil heightens the need to understand relative risks and this webinar series features information on crude oil characteristics, transportation options, and hazard evaluation while framing this discussion in the “triple bottom-line” of social, economic, and environmental values.

The first presentation is Crude Oil Movement in the Great Lakes Basin: Properties and Pathways presented by Dr. Bradley Hull from John Carroll University. Dr. Hull has an extensive background in movement of crude oil and he discusses uses of crude, logistics of movements from pipeline & rail, and potential issues of possibly restricting oil movement along any one route, perhaps causing oil to flow by other less desirable routes. See this fact sheet on Properties and Pathways.

The second presentation, Understanding the Nature of Hazards & Risks: Health, Safety, Economic and Environmental Impacts, is from Dale Bergeron from Minnesota Sea Grant and Michèle Leduc-Lapierre from the Great Lakes Commission.

Third in the series is Spill Response Requirements and Regional Capacity: Regulations and Resources. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator Ralph Dollhopf describes his extensive experience with regulations and spill response as he served as incident commander for the Kalamazoo River pipeline 6b release spill during 2010. Also, Tom Festa, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, discusses the inland geographic response plans primarily from rail transport.

The final presentation is Regulatory Activity and Environmental Requirements: Tools for Addressing Multiple Objectives. Speakers were Dr. James Winebrake, Rochester Institute of Technology who has developed a multi-objective/multi-modal modeling approach with GIS for examining risks of crude oil movement through the Great Lakes basin. Also, research counsel Catherine Janasie from the National Sea Grant Law Center presented Crude Oil Legal Framework and Current Legal Issues.

Be sure to access some of the tremendous information contained in the Crude Move webinar series as you seek to understand some of the complexities of crude oil movement through the Great Lakes.