Michigan tightens screws on pipeline company Enbridge

State signs agreement that addresses some of the safety concerns surrounding a 60-year-old pipeline system.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Nov. 28, 2017 at 6:46 AM
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Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Michigan has zero tolerance for errors in the network of pipelines crossing its territory, state leaders said in announcing an agreement with Enbridge.

"Business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable and we are going to ensure the highest level of environmental safety standards are implemented to protect one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican chair of a House subcommittee on energy, and environmental regulators signed with Enbridge an agreement to replace a section of the Line 5 network crossing from the east of the state into Canada and to look into what it would take to replace the section running through the northern Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5 runs through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, through the turbulent Straits of Mackinac and then east to Ontario. It's part of a broader network of pipelines and can carry as much as 540,000 barrels of oil per day.

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 in the straits, at least one of which was caused when Enbridge installed new supportive anchors. More recent inspections revealed dozens of more gaps across the span of the pipeline.

"The state is evaluating the entire span of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline and its future, but we cannot wait for the analyses to be completed before taking action to defend our waterways," the governor said.

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

"Zero tolerance for error is the only thing we will accept along with the highest safety standards in place to ensure the Great Lakes will not be at risk," Upton said.

Two of the state's Great Lakes intersect at the northern 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 60-year history

"Trust is earned, and while we have a long way to go, we remain committed to doing what it takes to rebuild trust and uphold our pledge to protect the environment while safely meeting Michigan's energy needs," the company said in a separate statement.

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