Suit Targets Coast Guard Over Line 5


A lawsuit filed last week by an environmental group alleges the United States Coast Guard isn't sufficiently prepared to respond if there were a spill on Enbridge Energy's Line 5 liquids pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, and seeks to shut the pipeline down until it is.

Filed Wednesday by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the National Wildlife Fund, the suit alleges that a top Coast Guard official testified under oath in front of Congres last year that the service is not adequately prepared for a worst-case spill on the line, though the Coast Guard does have a contingency plan in place to do just that. 

While officials now say that the Coast Guard could handle a worst-case scenario (a spokesperson told MLive that he is "confident" in the contingency plan), Admiral Paul F. Zukunft told Congress in November that "the Coast Guard is not 'semper paratus' for a major pipeline spill in the Great Lakes." Line 5 is the only liquids pipeline under the Great Lakes; "semper paratus," the Coast Guard motto, is Latin for "always prepared."

Worst-Case Planning

A worst-case spill on Line 5, according to a recent risk analysis by Michigan Technological University, could affect more than 400 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and come with a price tag of more than $1.8 billion. That risk analysis is part of the material to be reviewed by Gov. Rick Snyder as the state of Michigan and Enbridge approach an agreement on the future of the pipeline. 

The 65-year-old twin pipeline has been subject to increasing controversy in recent years as evidence of coating delamination, and unsupported lengths of pipeline has raised concerns about a release in the Great Lakes. Line 5 has never leaked, and last summer passed a high-pressure hydrotest; Enbridge has said that the pipeline poses no risk to the region, but neighbors, legislators and environmentalists have noted that any spill from the line could cause major damage to the environment in the tourism-heavy region.

While the pipeline operator insists there is little danger of a spill on Line 5, it prepared an assessment of possible alternatives for replacing the line at the behest of the governor earlier this year; its top choices were a concrete utility tunnel under the lake bed or a pipe-in-pipe secondary containment system that it says would reduce the risk of contamination of the Straits to a "miniscule" level.


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Quality Control

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