Aug. 20 (UPI) -- A pipeline spanning two of Michigan's peninsulas is a "vital link" to regional energy supplies, a trade group representative said in remarks to Senate leaders.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., convenes a hearing in Michigan's northern resort town of Traverse City on Monday to review pipeline safety in the Great Lakes.
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge operates a broad network of pipelines that send Canadian oil and other products through the region and Line 5 of that system runs through the narrow Straits of Mackinac separating Michigan's two peninsulas.
State agencies last year expressed concern with gaps in the protective coating on parts of Line 5 in the straits, at least one of which was caused when Enbridge installed new supportive anchors. Recent inspections revealed dozens of gaps across the span of the pipeline.
It's not uncommon to see yard signs calling for the closure of Line 5 peppered across Michigan. In his prepared remarks, David Murk, manager of pipeline operations at the American Petroleum Institute, said the Enbridge pipeline is an integral part of regional energy security.
"Enbridge's Line 5 is an example of a pipeline that provides a vital link to propane and other petroleum products in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula" of Michigan, his prepared testimony read.
According to API data, 10 percent of Michigan's population relies on the products that run through Line 5 to heat their homes. The pipeline carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and other liquids per day, which is the refined into propane and other products.
"These products heat homes and businesses, fuel vehicles and power industry," Murk's testimony read.
The integrity of Line 5, a 65-year-old system, is under scrutiny and opponents have expressed concern about the potential for a major oil spill in the Great Lakes. Those concerns were brought to the forefront in April when dents in the pipeline were discovered after a barge dragged an anchor through the Mackinac Straits.
No leaks were reported from Line 5. Two submarine cables operated by American Transmission Co. that send power between the peninsulas were also damaged in the early April incident.
A coalition of advocacy groups have called for smaller pipelines, rail and trucks as an alternative to Line 5, saying the network is too risky to keep running. Replacing Line 5 with a broader network, however, would be costly and carry its own environmental and political complications.