Michigan Attorney General Calls For Shutdown of Line 5 Pipeline

Following a review of an alternatives analysis study, Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette, who is widely expected to run for governor next year, is calling for a timeline for closing the Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straights of Mackinac. The straits are where lakes Huron and Michigan meet. Line 5, a 645-mile pipeline built in 1953, runs from Superior, Wis. to Sarnia, Canada and transports about 540,000 bbld of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.

“The safety and security of our Great Lakes is etched in the DNA of every Michigan resident, and the final decision on Line 5 needs to include a discussion with those that rely on propane for heating their homes, and depend on the pipeline for employment,” said Schuette. “One thing is for certain, the next steps we take should be for the long term protection of the Great Lakes.

Line 5 is part of Enbridge’s (Calgary) Lakehead pipeline network, which transports oil and NGLs to markets in the U.S. Midwest, the East Coast, and eastern Canada. Enbridge maintains the pipeline delivers crucial supplies of oil for gasoline, propane, and other refined products and is closely monitored. “After more than 60 years in service, Line 5 is in outstanding operational condition because of the rigorous maintenance done through the decades,” said John Gauderman, director of operations for the Great Lakes region. “We intend to keep it that way.”

However, Schuette said he disagrees with a suggestion in the alternatives analysis study by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc. that Line 5 could operate indefinitely. “A specific and definite timetable to close Line 5 under the straits should be established,” he asserted. He suggested, “One viable option, a tunnel under the straits, would create infrastructure and construction jobs in Michigan and would allow for continuous visual inspection.”

State agencies commissioned two reports from separate consulting firms, one to analyze risks posed by the underwater line and the other on alternatives should it be decommissioned. Enbridge shouldered the more than $3 million cost. Environmental activists are seeking a shutdown of the five-mile-long Line 5 segment, which they maintain has been buffeted by strong currents and is showing signs of wear. Although the federal government has regulatory authority, Michigan owns the straits area Great Lakes bottomlands and could revoke an easement it granted Enbridge with Line 5 was installed, environmental groups say.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce maintains “sound science, not slogans or politicians, should be the basis of Line 5 debate.” Michigan Chamber president and CEO Rich Studley said “the notion that we cannot protect water resources and safely transmit vital energy resources is simply not true. ‘Shut Down Line 5’ may be a clever bumper sticker for environmental extremists and a handy slogan for politicians, but it ignores the facts. To keep Michigan moving forward, environmental policy and important regulatory decisions must continue to be based on sound science, not bumper sticks or emotional political appeals.”

Jason Geer, director of energy and environmental policy at the Chamber, observed that Line 5 has undergone rigorous testing and benefits from continuous monitor- ing and maintenance. “Further, extensive safety tests and inspections of Line 5, which have not identified any safety risk concerns, have been overseen and reviewed by state and federal regulatory authorities. [The] alternative analysis report confirmed what we already knew, pipelines remain the safest, smartest, and most effective means of transporting energy and fuels. Michigan’s energy infrastructure is vital to our economic security, and Line 5 plays a vital role in delivering the resources Michigan citizens and businesses rely upon.”

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, July 10, 2017)