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Michigan Republican aims to shut down Enbridge pipeline

"I do not believe that it is a question of if the line will fail, but when," Michigan state Sen. Rick Jones said in a statement after introducing legislation to shut down a 64-year-old oil pipeline system in the Straits of Mackinac.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Michigan Republican aims to shut down Enbridge pipeline
Michigan Republican Sen. Rick Jones this week introduced a measure that could close an Enbridge pipeline running through the state's Great Lakes systems because of concerns it may fail. Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. Rick Jones.

March 31 (UPI) -- A Republican senator from Michigan said he's working through legislative efforts to close down an Enbridge oil pipeline in the Great Lakes.

Sen. Rick Jones introduced legislation targeting Line 5, a 64-year-old pipeline system in the Straits of Mackinac. The project is operated by pipeline company Enbridge, whose rupture of Line 6b in southern Michigan triggered one of the largest inland oil spills in the history of the U.S. oil industry.

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"I do not believe that it is a question of if the line will fail, but when," he said in a statement. "A leak from the pipeline under the straits would devastate the state's thriving boating, fishing and tourism industries and wreak havoc on the health of the world's largest collection of fresh water."

Last year, State Rep. Candice Miller introduced the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act, which would've forced the closure of the company's Line 5 pipeline system. If the pipeline burst, she said, more than 700 miles of the shoreline of the Great Lakes could be impacted.

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The bill introduced by Jones would amend the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act so that it would thwart the development of new oil pipelines in the Great Lakes and require third-party assessment of current networks. Under Jones' bill, if that analysis disclosed non-compliance, the pipeline in question would need to be closed.

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Two of the state's Great Lakes intersect at the straits, creating a turbulent maritime environment. A Michigan pipeline task force report requires Enbridge to carry full insurance, create a public pipeline safety board and disclose safety reports.

Enbridge, in an overview of Michigan operations, notes there's never been a leak on the Line 5 system in its history. Line 5 was built around the same time as Line 6b.

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The company faced tough questions earlier this month from residents in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula worried about the integrity of Line 5, but the company said it felt it was in as good a condition as when it was installed.

Jones' measure now heads to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration.

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