The Perceived Risk of Freshwater Oil Pipelines and Spills in Icy Conditions
Using the psychometric paradigm of risk in conjunction with surveys of the Michigan public (n = 569) and a regional planning organization (n = 65), we examine the perceived risk associated with underwater oil pipelines, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in particular, and oil spills under ice. The fate of Line 5 is heavily debated in Michigan, specifically the portion that traverses the Straits of Mackinac, which can be ice-covered for months. Scant literature examines either our capabilities for detecting and remediating oil spills in ice-covered conditions or how individuals perceive the risk associated with Line 5 or its alternatives. Here we identify considerable concern regarding both the pipeline and the potential for spills under ice on behalf of the public, and increased concern about spills under ice on behalf of the planning organization. Organization members' concerns are significantly predicted by beliefs about the difficulty in remediating spills, however not by beliefs about spills' likelihood, detection, noticeability, or consequences. Our results identify the need to better understand the fate of oil captured under ice, develop practical guidelines for remediating such spills, and use decision-making processes that explicitly analyze the social, economic and environmental tradeoffs of underwater pipelines.