MACKINAW CITY, Mich. – Michigan's attorney general on Monday asked a judge to shut down a pipeline in the Great Lakes after an energy company discovered that an anchor support had shifted deep below the surface.
Enbridge Inc. insists the Line 5 pipeline itself was not damaged, and the company resumed the flow of oil and natural gas liquids in the west leg of the twin system Saturday. The east line, where the anchor support assembly had moved, remains closed in the Straits of Mackinac.
But state attorneys said both should be turned off until an independent review is conducted. They asked for a restraining order and an injunction as part of ongoing litigation between Enbridge and Attorney General Dana Nessel, who wants Line 5 permanently shut down.
“Enbridge’s prevention and detection measures have failed to prevent or detect the source of this damage, and that failure has created a risk of irreparable harm to the Great Lakes,” state attorneys said.
Line 5 carries oil and natural gas liquids used in propane from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario. A four-mile (6.4-kilometer) segment divides into two pipes that lie on the bottom of the straits, which connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan between Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Enbridge restarted the west leg of Line 5 without sharing enough information about the incident. She called it a “brazen disregard for the people of Michigan” and the safety of the Great Lakes.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the following statement:
“I fully support Attorney General’s action today on Line 5. Enbridge resumed operation of the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac without any explanation of the cause for the damage to the pipeline structure or plan to prevent it from happening again. Moreover, Enbridge has not timely complied with the state’s request for full and complete information and resumed operation without even consultation. This brazen disregard for the people of Michigan and the safety and well-being of our Great Lakes is unacceptable.”
Enbridge wants to ultimately put the twin pipes in a tunnel to protect them. The project was approved in 2018 before Whitmer and Nessel took office.
Line 5 delivers 65% of the propane that heats Upper Peninsula homes and 55% of Michigan’s propane needs, according to Enbridge.
Below is Enbridge’s statement:
“Enbridge believes the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction sought by the Attorney General of Michigan is legally unsupportable, unnecessary, and will be vigorously opposed by Enbridge.
Enbridge understands the importance of the Great Lakes to the State and the need to protect the Straits, the environment and people. As part of its thorough maintenance and inspection program, Enbridge first noted a disturbance to an anchor support on the east leg last Thursday and immediately shut down both legs of the Line 5 dual pipelines crossing the Straits of Mackinac as a precautionary measure. The east leg pipeline remains shut down, while the west leg was restarted after a thorough review and consultation with our safety regulator.
‘We have been working very closely with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to ensure it is able to assess the safety of the dual pipelines. This included informing them of our completion of Remote Operated Vehicle inspections of the west leg of the line, which confirmed there was no mechanical damage to the pipeline or any support-anchors. We have also provided engineering assessments and other materials to State officials.' said Vern Yu, Enbridge’s Executive Vice-President and President, Liquids Pipelines. ‘We continue to work with PHMSA to answer their questions about our assessments of the dual pipelines.'
Line 5 is a critical source of 540,000 barrels per day of propane and crude oil supply for Michigan and surrounding areas that make up the regional supply network for the State, producing transportation fuels and consumer goods. Line 5 has operated reliably and safely in the Straits since 1953 and continues to do so today.”
A copy of Enbridge CEO Al Monaco’s June 21, 2020 letter to Governor Whitmer is below: