Michigan governor rejects shutdown of Enbridge Line 5 pipeline

Posted Feb 1, 2018 by Karen Graham
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has rejected three recommendations from a state advisory board tied to the operation of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline, including one that proposed a temporary shutdown where it crosses the Straits of Mackinac.
Two Enbridge pipelines cross the Straits of Mackinac under our lakes  just west of the Bridge.
Two Enbridge pipelines cross the Straits of Mackinac,under our lakes, just west of the Bridge.
Michigan Department of Transportation
The 65-year-old Enbridge Line 5 is a major oil pipeline in the Enbridge Lakehead System, which moves petroleum from western Canada to eastern Canada via the Great Lakes states. It is most notable for passing under the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
The 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline was completed in 1953, and after an upgrade in 2013, carries about 23 million gallons (540,000 barrels) of crude oil and liquid natural gas daily.
Of particular concern is the fact the pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac splits into two 20-inch-diameter pipes, running parallel to each other. The two pipes reunite when they reach the southern side of the straits. The lines descend to a depth of approximately 82 meters (270 feet) under the straits.
Loss of protective coating leads to risk assessment
The big stink surrounding the pipeline dates back to September 2016. Enbridge allegedly filed a report with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that identified 19 "holidays" on Line 5—an oil and gas industry term that refers to areas on a pipeline where the anti-corrosive coating is missing.
Then, in February 2017, Michigan pipeline safety advisory Board member, Jennifer McKay, who is a policy specialist with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, stumbled across the EPA report while looking for something else on the Enbridge website, according to Michigan Live.
Valerie Brader, Michigan Agency for Energy director and pipeline board co-chair, called the information "concerning" and "something we want more information on." This comment resulted in a number of public meeting with Enbridge officials, who faced rowdy crowds worried about a possible oil spill.
Enbridge Line 5 right-of-way near Michigan s Straits of Mackinac
Enbridge Line 5 right-of-way near Michigan's Straits of Mackinac
The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board commissioned an independent contractor to assess worst-case scenarios from a Straits of Mackinac pipeline leak and to submit an accompanying analysis of safer alternatives to transporting oil and gas around the Great Lakes. The reports were expected by June 2017.
After contracting with an independent company to do the risk analysis, in the middle of June 2017, the company informed the state that one of its employees who worked on the risk analysis was potentially in conflict because of the employee's subsequent work for Enbridge. Basically, the state of Michigan had to scrap the almost complete assessment, leaving any decisions on the pipeline hanging in the wind.
The pot begins to boil over
On November 22, 2017, Enbridge and Governor Snyder signed a "safety agreement" that in essence said the energy company must act immediately to increase environmental protections around Line 5, the controversial pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.
In a brochure issued by Enbridge detailing the Line 5 pipeline  they say:  The twin pipelines under ...
In a brochure issued by Enbridge detailing the Line 5 pipeline, they say: "The twin pipelines under the Straits have not experienced any leaks in six decades of operation—a testament to their design, construction, and maintenance regimen."
Under the agreement, Enbridge must, among other actions, replace the portion of Line 5 that crosses beneath the St. Clair River with a new pipe in a tunnel under the river, temporarily shut down operation of Line 5 in the Straits during periods of sustained adverse weather conditions, undertake a study on the placement of a new pipeline or the existing dual pipelines in a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac, and implement technologies that improve the safety of Line 5.
According to Michigan Radio,the reason the deal was struck is because the company has a legal contract with the state. The two 20-inch pipelines run under the Straits of Mackinac under the conditions of a 1953 easement. Aside from that contract, the state has no regulatory authority over hazardous liquid pipelines in Michigan. That oversight falls to the federal government.
Since that deal was struck, the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board met in December, and in a subtle rebuke of the deal, proposed three revisions of the agreement, a new analysis of the public need for Line 5 and a temporary shutdown until damage to the pipeline's protective coating can be inspected and repaired.
Garret M. Ellison
Governor Snyder today rejected the three recommendations from the state advisory board tied to the operation of Enbridge's Line 5 oil pipeline, including the one that proposed a temporary shutdown where it crosses the Straits of Mackinac.
Snyder downplayed any imminent threat in his January 26 letter to the board. "While the coating gaps remain of key concern and must be addressed, review of the recent hydro test results of Line 5 through the Straits indicate there is not a risk of imminent failure, and that test was done when these coating gaps existed," Snyder wrote.