Enbridge Sues Tug Firm Over Line 5 Damage
Enbridge Energy, operator of the Line 5 liquids pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan, filed suit last week in a federal court against VanEnkevort Tug and Barge, the company whose vessel allegedly caused April’s anchor strike that damaged the pipeline and nearby electric cables.
The Canadian oil and gas company’s suit is reportedly the third filed in relation to the incident, following action by the state of Michigan and American Transmission Company, whose cable was damaged.
Enbridge claims in the suit that on April 1, the Clyde S. VanEnkevort, a pusher tug owned by VanEnkevort that operates in conjunction with the barge Erie Trader, “deployed and/or dragged” one of its anchors for “many miles” in the Straits, striking and denting the twin pipelines of Line 5 in the process. Dropping anchor is prohibited in the vicinity of the pipelines and transmission cables.
The suit claims the vessel was “negligently operated” and that VanEnkevort failed to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting Line 5. The potential for damage to both the pipelines and the transmission cables below the Straits is “a well-known matter of significant concern,” Enbridge says in its complaint.
Enbridge is suing for the cost of repairs to Line 5, costs of investigating and inspecting the pipelines in the wake of the alleged strike, and “other damages, costs and fees deemed allowable by the Court.”
Line 5 was shut down temporarily after the April 1 incident was discovered by ATC, the transmission-cable operator; at first the pipeline was not believe to have been affected, but days later Enbridge announced that it had suffered dents.
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 65-year-old Line 5 and the risk of environmental damage to the Great Lakes should a release occur. In November, Gov. Rick Snyder publicly called on Enbridge to be more transparent about the line after a series of revelations regarding coating damage on the pipes under the Straits.
An agreement with the state requires Enbridge to shut down operation of the pipeline if waves reach more than 8 feet.
Enbridge recently completed an assessment, also required by the state agreement, in which it analyzed the viability of certain methods of replacing Line 5; it concluded that either a tunnel under the bed of the Straits or an open cut with secondary containment would be a possible strategy for the replacement of the aging pipeline.
The agreement does not actually require the shutdown or replacement of the line.
Enbridge has held that Line 5, which has never leaked, is in good condition and can continue to operate safely. The pipeline passed a hydrostatic pressure test a year ago.