Michigan incensed over Enbridge pipeline integrity

Gaps found in the protective coating of a pipeline running through the Great Lakes don't necessarily mean integrity is an issue.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Nov. 14, 2017 at 5:50 AM
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Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Pipeline company Enbridge needs to disclose more information about the status of a Great Lakes networks after material issues were uncovered, Michigan said.

Pipeline operator Enbridge is facing push back from residents in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula worried about the integrity of Line 5, a pipeline system running through the Mackinac Straits. The company said it felt the system was in as good a condition as when it was installed, though two of the state's Great Lakes intersect at the straits, creating a turbulent maritime environment.

In August, the Michigan State Police, Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, and the Michigan Agency for Energy said they were concerned by gaps in the protective coating on parts of Line 5, at least one of which was caused when Enbridge installed new supportive anchors. Now, new inspections show dozens of more gaps across the span of the pipeline.

"It is essential that we get adequate and accurate information from Enbridge to allow the State to continue our pursuit of protecting the Great Lakes," Heidi Grether, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality and co-chair of the state's Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder added that, while the gaps themselves don't equate to imminent risk, the degree to which Enbridge has conducted operations in the state was no longer satisfactory.

Enbridge had no public information available about the latest concerns in Michigan. The broader Lakehead system in the region ruptured in southern Michigan in 2010, leading to the largest inland release in the modern era of the oil industry in the United States.

The company is called on by the State of Michigan to deliver "full accounting" on the status of the Line 5 system by Dec. 11.

In Minnesota, the company is facing additional questions over the Line 3 segment of a broader network. Enbridge said replacements and upgrades to the 50-year-old system are the most efficient way to ensure the infrastructure is reliable, though state reviews have outlined other options. In more than 125 pages of testimony submitted in late October, Kate O'Connell, an energy regulation manager at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said it doesn't appear Enbridge actually needs the overhaul to boost capacity on the broader network because state refiners have been operating at near capacity.

The proposal for Line 3 includes a $4.2 billion Canadian component and a $2.9 billion U.S. component.

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