Enbridge Line 5 shut down after anchor support incurs ‘significant damage’

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked Enbridge officials to release “all information available” after Enbridge reported a damaged anchor support to the state on Thursday. (File photo)

June 21 update: Enbridge rebuffs Whitmer, won’t close Line 5 after damage to anchor support

Enbridge Energy has shut down the Line 5 petroleum pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac following “significant damage” to an anchor support on the lakebottom pipeline, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday evening.

In a letter Friday to the Canadian company’s CEO, Al Monaco, Whitmer expressed dismay about the damage, which Enbridge reported to state officials late Thursday. She asked Monaco to turn over “all information available” about the incident, including reports, photos and video, and directed Enbirdge to provide “affirmative evidence” of the dual pipelines’ integrity. 

It’s not clear what caused the damage, Whitmer wrote, “although it appears the anchor support was subject to considerable force.”

A spokesman for Enbridge said the incident did not result in a spill

In an email to Bridge Friday, spokesman Ryan Duffy said company officials discovered Thursday during seasonal maintenance work that the support had "shifted from its original position." 

"We immediately shut down the line as a precaution," Duffy wrote, and notified state and federal officials. Duffy said Enbridge will provide the information Whitmer requested.

Line 5 opponents have long expressed concerns that the 67-year-old pipeline, which transports oil and natural gas liquids between Wisconsin and Ontario, could pose a catastrophic hazard to the Great Lakes and inland waterways if it sustains damage resulting in a spill. Friday’s news prompted renewed calls to shut down the pipeline. 

“We don’t even know what Enbridge knew and when in relation to the new damage,” said Sean McBrearty, coordinator of the group Oil & Water Don’t Mix, in a statement. “Enough is enough.”

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, called for a third-party determination of the pipeline’s safety, and said the company “cannot be trusted with Michigan’s most valuable natural, economic and cultural resource.”

The damaged support is about 150 feet from a section of the pipeline where coating covering the pipe was reported damaged on May 26. Enbridge has shut down the pipeline and is using divers and a remotely-operated vehicle to gather more information, according to Whitmer’s letter to Monaco.

“One close call with Line 5 is one too many,” the governor said in a news release Friday evening, “which is why I am calling on Enbridge to proceed with the utmost caution and care.”

Whitmer scolded Monaco for “many unanswered questions” about the “catastrophe that may have been narrowly avoided.” She noted that the 1953 state easement granting Enbridge permission to run its pipeline along the lakebottom comes with a duty to use “due care” in operating and maintaining Line 5. 

News of the damage comes a day after Enbridge announced a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that includes $6.7 million in fines for failing to quickly address pipeline safety issues within its Lakehead Pipeline System, which includes Line 5 and other Midwest pipelines.  

This is not the first time Line 5 has sustained damage in recent years. In 2018, a boat anchor struck the pipeline, denting it and spurring renewed calls to shutdown the aging pipeline for fear that it is vulnerable to accidents that could release oil into the Straits.

The debate over Line 5’s fate continues today. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel continues to pursue lawsuits against Enbridge in hopes of shutting down the pipeline. Meanwhile, the company is proceeding with permit applications for a planned underground tunnel to house a replacement pipeline that it says would carry petroleum products between Michigan’s peninsulas without risk of a spill in the Straits.

In a statement Friday, Nessel renewed her call to shut down the pipeline, calling news of the anchor damage evidence that “Line 5 is a clear and present danger to our Great Lakes and to the millions of Michiganders who rely on those lakes for recreation, business and tourism.”

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Sat, 06/20/2020 - 12:34am

It has always been just a matter of time. The time is here to stop this nonsense now. The oil spill isn't the half of it. The Enbridge Company is applying for a permit from EGLE right now that will allow them to "increase the loading of pollutants to the surface waters of the State". They will perform this dumping on the Mackinaw Station South side to the tune of 5 million Gallons per hour and how often you ask? The discharge will occur 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What sort of pollutants will they discharge into our waters? They will discharge conventional pollutants, toxic pollutants, additives, and fecal coliform. What will be effected? All connecting waterways, streams, rivers, and lake beds. Everything, everywhere! And guess how much a permit like that would cost Enbridge? $400.00 If EGLE would pass in favor of a permit like that so the Canadian Oil Company can further pollute or waters and close our beaches, I don't think we need an "EGLE" to protect our waters!

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 9:00am

Where in their permit application does it say 'fecal coliform'. They are not building a human wasterwater treatment plant. If they are, what a great piece of infrastructure as it would be built to high modern standards and permitting discharge limits which would actually improve water quality over the aging human publicly owned and operated wastewater treatment plants rimming the Great Lakes today. And 5 million gallons per hour seems a bit high.

middle of the mit
Sun, 06/21/2020 - 9:57pm

While I agree that I would like to see more information on this subject, I would take umbrage with your statement ;
" If they are, what a great piece of infrastructure as it would be built to high modern standards and permitting discharge limits which would actually improve water quality over the aging human publicly owned and operated wastewater treatment plants rimming the Great Lakes today"

I would like to see where, especially after what we are seeing with the failed dams, that any regulatory agency is going to make this mandatory, especially with anti-regulation conservatives in control of the legislature.

That is the whole reason that dam owners and business owners are calling for less regulation. They don't want things built to todays standards, they want them built to the least allowable standard and then cut that by 25-50% to save on costs and keep them competitive.

Show me different.

Doug L
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 9:52am

Where did you find this information?

Kathi Geukes
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 10:14am

It's past time to shut down Line 5.....tell Canada to find another way to run their oil....we longer want their pipeline under our Great lake!!!

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 7:31am

Geography lesson …. It's their lake too. I assume you're a teacher?

Dan Moerman
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 10:14am

This is really crazy. Here we are, all worrying about covid-19, and at the same time that ridiculous pipeline is still going, endangering the largest body of fresh water in the world. Our fresh water ocean. Challenge: can you think of anything MORE CRAZY than line 5? Okay, the flying cars in Blade Runner, but that was fiction!! The Alaskan "Bridge to Nowhere" (to an island with 50 residents.) Yup, real, but it was NEVER BUILT, which it should share with line 5, which should NEVER have been built. It is utterly amazing the insane things people will do to make money.

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 10:43am

Perhaps the Edenville dam failure was the canary in the mine and will end up saving millions of lives by forcing the State of MI to hire the most highly qualified engineers and environmental scientists to enforce environmental laws in a timely manner.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 11:27am

Yeah, if only the owners of the Edenville dam had put more private investment into upgrading or replacing their infrastructure with something more resilient and safe. THAT should be something the state should've encouraged.

Bob Shishka
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 11:05am

This pipeline is a ticking time bomb. The risk is simply not worth the reward. My apologies if that offends you Mr. & Mrs. oil & gas employee. It should be shut down permanently & encased in concrete like a watery grave & the entire area made a no anchor zone...before “man” causes the next major disaster on this planet. Gulf of Mexico ring a bell? Or what about a seismic episode that puts a tiny crack in the aging line? Not worth it. Not now... not EVER!

Line 5 aside, God only knows what toxic crap is being dumped into our Great Lakes on the daily, which is why I gave up eating ANYTHING that comes from these once magnificent bodies of water, years ago. Walleye and Perch were my favorite.

The human species will not be satisfied until it has destroyed all things beautiful and natural in the name of profits and convenience for itself.

All these politicians acting as if they care is a complete farce. Whoever pays them the most money (also known as bribe) will win the argument at days end. ( See Midland disaster for further proof ). Our entire Government is one big money laundering scheme, propped up as some kind of “superhero” to the people for which it SHOULD BE protecting and looking out for. Guess what? It ain’t. It’s a very powerful illusion.

So what does all this mean for the future of the Great Lakes? Guaranteed destruction. The oil & gas industry will win because they have money & power. All this back and forth going on? Typical dog and pony show. Professional wrestling at its finest. Two sides pretending to hold opposite views, when in reality....they both get paid ( bribed ) by the same powerful individuals.

Who is the ultimate loser you may ask? Mother Nature, or more specifically, the Once Great Lakes. R.I.P. Bob

A. Watters
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 11:41am

Sounds like the work of tree huggers gragging the bottom to puposely cause a leak. Grappling hooks over the side to prove their point.

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 12:07pm

OK, we are half way there- now leave it off forever!

Colette Stimmell
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 3:43pm

This is an environmental disaster of high magnitude waiting to happen. Shut it down for good!

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 5:13pm

Weird how this accident that thousands of us were warning about happened, despite the assurances to the contrary of the conservative commentariat. Maybe y'all should stop listening to fossil fuel interests with terrible operational records and start listening to us?

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 11:29am

*What* exactly happened that you were so concerned about for so long?
Did you read the article?

Drill the tunnel
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 6:12pm

This is a great example of why the state should be helping Enbridge with the tunnel process. Instead we have a Governor and Attorney General who are obstructing the process as much as possible.
People do not like the pipeline but do not want the tunnel built either. Which is it? Tunnel or pipeline? Organizations like Oil and Water Don’t Mix are not being realistic. Modern society requires petroleum products which is an undeniable fact that will not change in any of our lifetimes. The hypocrisy of those who oppose line 5 is stunning. They will rail against the pipeline while driving vehicles and heating their homes with petroleum products.

Dan Moerman
Sun, 06/21/2020 - 11:28am

Recall that the oil and gas from line 5 are shipped primarily to Canada (where another pipeline crosses under the St. Mary's River.) I don't know if it has a number there. maybe line 5-1/2.

Yooper 4
Sun, 06/21/2020 - 2:06pm

Please use facts in your argument. There has been many State of Michigan issued reports on who uses the products in L5. About 1/3 of the oil and propane it transports is used in Michigan. Including it takes on most of the current Michigan produced oil and transports to markets downstream. And of the 2/3 that makes it way to Canada, much comes back to Michigan as propane for the LP and some also makes it's way to Pennsylvania.

Vince Caruso
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 7:32pm

How much is the value of fresh clean water to 10's of Millions of people? Worth many Trillions of dollars, not just billions. This pipeline and this company are not worth a Plug Nickel.
Shut down and remove this monstrosity now our children's children's children's ... are much more important than this washed-up excuse for a living for some 'not so good' foreigners.

Vince Caruso
Sun, 06/21/2020 - 11:06am

Thank You, Governer Whitmer, for requesting Enbridge completely shut down its Line 5 pipeline following damage discovered Thursday on the east leg of the line that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge has no regard for the life and health of the region, just a demand we provide them with a dangerous means of making 100's of Millions on our backs!

Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes Region its time to say we're done with Enbridge once and for all.

We are the Saudi Araba of Clean Fresh Water and this is worth more by the day and way more than facial fuels.