MI Board Calls on Snyder to Shut Down Line 5


Two weeks after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder entered into an agreement with energy giant Enbridge regarding the future of its Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, some members of the state’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board called for an immediate shutdown of the line until coating issues are resolved.

The board, established by the governor in 2015 to serve in an advisory capacity on matters related to the oil and gas pipelines running through the state, met Monday (Dec. 11), with some of its 15 members expressing concerns about the deal between Snyder and Enbridge.

Advisory Resolution

PSAB members representing citizen and environmental groups proposed a resolution advising the governor to revise the agreement and shut down the pipeline until concerns over gaps in the protective coating of the twin lines under the Straits are quelled.

According to MLive, seven members of the board—representing the state itself and energy companies—abstained, and the measure passed, though some challenged whether it could officially pass given the number of abstentions. PSAB measures are only considered to be advisory.

The agreement, announced Nov. 27, requires Enbridge to:

  • Evaluate three alternatives for the “eventual” replacement of Line 5 under the Straits;
  • Shut the pipeline down under the Straits when weather creates sustained waves of over 8 feet on the body of water (a clause that was already pressed into action last week during a windstorm);
  • Begin work as soon as possible to replace the stretch of Line 5 under the St. Clair River using horizontal directional drilling; and
  • Increase transparency and coordination with the state regarding the safety of the pipeline.

Line 5 Controversy

Enbridge has been under increasing fire over the past year from citizens, activists and lawmakers in Michigan who are concerned about the condition of the 64-year-old dual pipeline under the Straits.

In February, Enbridge denied reports of coating loss on the pipeline. In March, the company acknowledged that there were areas of coating loss, but that they only affected the outer layer of the coating system.

More recently, it was revealed that there were areas of bare metal on the line under the Straits, and some Enbridge personnel knew about the gaps soon after they were created in 2014, but the company hadn’t acknowledged their existence for three years. In November, Enbridge revealed that, rather than the three gaps in the coating that the company originally reported, there were dozens of areas of bare metal, some larger than one square foot in area.

Line 5, which originates in Superior, Wisconsin, where several other Enbridge lines terminate, moves crude oil and natural gas liquids to Sarnia, Ontario, via Michigan. According to Enbridge, while much of the crude coming from Alberta goes to refineries in Sarnia, some is also refined in Michigan and Ohio. And it’s not all Canadian oil moving through the pipeline: At points, sweet crude produced in Michigan is pumped into Line 5 to make its way to refineries as well.

The pipeline has never experienced a leak, and earlier this year, it passed a high-pressure hydrotest.

Line 3 Review

Elsewhere, in Minnesota, officials rejected the environmental impact statement for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, a $6.5 billion project that would replace more than 1,000 miles of crude oil pipeline between Alberta and Wisconsin.

Line 3 replacement
Enbridge Energy

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission called for the revision of sections of the environmental impact statement for Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission called for the revision of three sections of the review, to be made within 60 days. The project would move much of Line 3 to a different route in Minnesota.

The replacement is necessary, Enbridge says, because of a failing tapecoat that may be speeding corrosion on the line. Concerns over the pipeline’s condition led the company to voluntarily limit the line to 390,000 barrels per day starting in 2010. A replacement would increase capacity to at least 760,000 barrels daily.


Tagged categories: Coating failure; Government; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Pipelines; Quality Control

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