Lawmaker Introduces Great Lakes Pipeline Bill
A U.S. congressman representing Michigan's 8th district, north of Detroit, has introduced legislation at the federal level in an effort to closer regulate petroleum pipelines running under the Great Lakes, with specific implications for Enbridge Energy's controversial Line 5.
Rep. Mike Bishop, a Republican, introduced the Great Lakes Oil Spill Prevention Act on Jan. 12, and it was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for consideration. The bill would require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to report annually on pipelines under the Great Lakes, and impose a series of new restrictions on the lines, including regulations specifically governing holidays in pipeline coatings and cathodic protection.
Line 5 has come under fire from citizens, activists and lawmakers over the past year after the Canada-based Enbridge admitted the 64-year-old dual pipeline, which transports crude oil and natural gas liquids, has a number of areas of coating loss. Enbridge has maintained that the pipeline is not compromised, and last summer, the firm performed a hydrotest, which the line passed. Line 5, which passes under the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan's upper and lower peninsula, has never experienced a leak.
Much of the text of Bishop's bill seems custom-written for Line 5. Maintenance requirements, for example, include mandates that pipeline operators maintain functional anchors every 75 feet for pipelines more than 30 feet undewater. (Line 5's easement stipulates the same, but Enbridge admits that in recent years, much longer stretches went unsupported, allegedly due to erosion.) The bill also calls specifically for cathodic protection and "enamel coating," with no hoilday greater than 3 square inches. Line 5 reportedly was coated with coal tar enamel at the time of its construction; some of the holidays found in recent years have been much larger than 3 square inches.
In April, a state legislator, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, introduced legislation to require a third-party evaluation of lines running under the Great Lakes, and calling for the shutdown of pipelines if inspectors deemed the risk of environmental catastrophe to be too great. That bill was referred to the state senate's Committee on Natural Resources in March.