Enbridge rebuffs Whitmer, won’t close Line 5 after damage to anchor support

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says Enbridge should shut down both legs of the Line 5 pipeline until more is known about the extent of recent damage to an anchor support. Enbridge said one leg will remain open, citing a federal agency’s approval for keeping it open. (File photo)

June 25, 2020: Michigan judge orders temporary Enbridge Line 5 shutdown
June 22 update: Nessel asks for temporary shutdown of Line 5 after damage

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking Enbridge to shut down the second leg of Line 5 after the company reported the pipeline suffered “significant damage” to an anchor support.

Enbridge shut down both legs of the oil and natural gas pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac after maintenance workers discovered the damage Thursday. But the company resumed operation of the west leg Saturday afternoon after determining it was not damaged. 

“Given the gravity of this matter, I was taken aback to learn the company has unilaterally resumed operation of the west leg without even opportunity for discussion,” Whitmer wrote Saturday. 

“At this moment, Enbridge is pumping crude through the Great Lakes on state-owned bottomlands without any explanation for the cause of this damage to the pipeline structure and no assurance that Enbridge has taken sufficient steps to mitigate future harm.”

The company indicated in a statement, also released Saturday, it did not plan to shut down the second leg as the damaged leg is reviewed. 

“Our federal regulator, (the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), has no objections to this plan,” wrote spokesperson Ryan Duffy. 

Duffy told Bridge Friday that the company discovered an anchor support on the east leg of the pipeline had “shifted from its original position” during seasonal maintenance work. 

In a letter to Whitmer sent Saturday, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco said the company is assessing damage to the pipelines by deploying divers and using a remote-operated vehicle. Whitmer asked that the company provide engineering reports, photographs, video and other evidence of the damage to the state by Monday and said the “incident leaves many unanswered questions as to the cause of this damage.”

The company said that when it first became aware of the damage it immediately shut down operation of the 67-year-old pipeline that transports oil and natural gas between Wisconsin and Ontario, but news of the damage has renewed calls to shut it down permanently. 

Line 5 critics have long said they are concerned that the pipeline could do irreparable damage to the Great Lakes should it be damaged enough to cause a spill. Sean McBrearty of advocacy group Oil & Water Don’t Mix said the incident shows “enough is enough,” while Mike Shriberg of the National Wildlife Federation said the company “cannot be trusted with Michigan’s most valuable natural, economic and cultural resource.”

Controversy over the pipeline continues at the state and federal level. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is still fighting the energy company in court in an attempt to prove the law passed in 2018 authorizing the tunnel violates the state constitution. Earlier this week, the company reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and agreed to pay $6.7 million after it failed to quickly address safety problems in the Lakehead Pipeline System, which includes Line 5.

It’s not the first time Line 5 has been damaged: In 2018, a six-ton anchor hit the pipeline, denting it. The incident also caused $100 million in damages to another company’s underwater power cables and for 800 gallons of oil to be spilled into the Straits.

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Michael Hubbard
Sun, 06/21/2020 - 4:14pm

Just sent an email to PHMSA asking why they have not order line 5 shut down until full assessment and repairs if required are made. Amazing that the state has so little power to protect its land and waters.

Dash Riprock
Tue, 06/23/2020 - 9:08am

This is nothing but a bunch of hype, who knows how long both pipelines were running without any problems even after the anchorage on the one was damaged. Only one sustained damage so why shouldn't the undamaged line continue supply much needed fuel? It certainly seems like the Governor id doing everything in her power to destroy Michigan's economy, which many, including myself, think is politically motivated.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 2:37pm

Michigan gets no benefit From Line 5 Pipeline
Enbridge a Canadian Co. sends the oil back to Canada After risking our greatest resource
Why not just go through Canada?

Alex Sagady
Sun, 06/21/2020 - 6:02pm

>>>>>Enbridge shut down both legs of the oil and natural gas pipeline

Nope... no natural gas is transported in Line 5.

>>>>The company said that when it first became aware of the damage it immediately shut down operation of the 67-year-old pipeline that transports oil and natural gas between Wisconsin and Ontario,

Again, wrong about natural gas, and fails to mention that Line 5 transport crude oil to other pipelines going to Michigan and Ohio refineries, and supplies a Michigan propane terminal in the UP and transports Michigan-produced crude oil. It is also the source of supply of most propane used in the entire state of Michigan.

>>>>>Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is still fighting the energy company in court in an attempt to prove the law passed in 2018 authorizing the tunnel violates the state constitution.

The Attorney General represented Michigan as defendant. She lost the case.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:51am

Propane is a natural gas smart one

Alex Sagady
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 2:59pm

Propane is NOT natural gas, and is a liquid under the
physical conditions of transport....not a gas.

Natural gas consists mostly of methane and small amounts
of ethane and is always a gas under standard temperature and pressure conditions.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:56pm

Has anyone told you that you're the worst environmentalist ever?

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 9:45am

Amazing how a foreign company can just ignore a US state. Just watch when there's an accident how fast Enbridge denies any responsibility ('an LLC owns the pipeline') and any damages. And then we all pay for the mess. That's capitalism at its best.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 11:03am

Yeah, let's just go to socialism, work all week, give 50-80% of your earnings to the government, because we all know how well they spend OUR money now. No thanks, I'll take capitalism any day. I know how to take care of myself and family.

Richard Scott
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 11:56am

Agree entirely. They have lied, failed to follow laws enacted for protection. At time of hearing fir building supports the nature of the bed on which supports rest was reported by engineers to not be stable. Water flowing moves sand and gravel and stones . We who argued at meeting against supports argued risk and cost could not be covered by Enbridge.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:20am

Soapy's Folly, the Mackinac Bridge, should have been a tunnel. It would have been a better long term investment with less maintenance, no shutdown because of bad weather and could also be a safe route for pipelines and circuits.

We may have the opportunity for a do over here, with Enbridge paying much of the cost for constructing a multi-use tunnel.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:12pm

Not 100% but pretty sure tech was not available do underwater that deep back then. Not to mention cost

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 6:09pm

Yah probably so, but they're not as cool to look at, from and drive on! How would that tunnel look on a license plate?

Jim Olson
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 2:38pm

Enbridge's argument that Governor Whitmer, Attorney General Nessel, and Michigan and are citizens are preempted by "safety" or building code standards under federal law (PHMSA) is without merit. The legal fact is that Michigan took title to the waters and soils beneath the Great Lakes in public trust as a condition of statehood; this trust and title is inalienable, irrevocable, and perpetual. The federal government reserved the right to protect navigation or commerce connected with navigation of the Great Lakes. A crude oil pipeline is not dependent upon and has nothing to do with navigation on the Great Lakes. On top of this, the law recognizes that federal regulations to protect commerce DO NOT AFFECT THE JURISDICTION OVER AND DECISIONS CONCERTING USE OF ITS PUBLIC TRUST WATERS AND BOTTOMLANDS. Governor, Whitmer, Attorney General Nessel, teh DNR and EGLE have the right, power, and duty to take actions to shutdown conditions surround the use of our public trust waters that endanger public safety, public infrastructure, health, public and private property, and the public trust. Indeed, Enbridge covenanted in its 1953 Easement that its use was subject to prudence and actions necessary to prevent harm to these public trust protected interests. Enbridge has and continues to violate this threshold.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 3:17pm

If the pipeline were in a dry tunnel, 100 feet below the lake bottom, encased in bedrock, there would be almost zero chance of damage. Inspectors could roam the dry tunnel at will, and any required repairs could be made easily. If one drop of oil leaked from the pipe, it would be instantly noticeable if there were sufficient cameras operating in the dry and lighted tunnel. Of course, that drop of oil would be contained within the tunnel as the Great Lake waters would be 100' above the tunnel.

So much power given to people with so little knowledge of the subject matter is a dangerous thing.

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 6:37pm

Rather than spouting off and blame the victim, maybe the Gov should investigate and punish the terrorist who tried to damage the pipeline?

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:46pm

I saw my first sign that read "We Support The Tunnel". My first. My concern does not only come the the line under the Straits, but all the other land that this line runs through. Any thought by Enbridge to build a state-long tunnel to protect the rest of Line 5?

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 9:56am

notice how the article implies that 800 gallons of oil were released from line 5 due to the anchor strike last year。 in fact the "oil" that was released dielectric coolant that came from an out of service electric line owned by an unnrelated power company。this is what passes for journalism today。

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 2:34pm

Please provide the names of all Judges ruling in Line 5 lawsuits so I can be prepared come election time thanks