Michigan judge orders temporary Enbridge Line 5 shutdown

A judge has granted Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request to temporarily shut down the Line 5 pipeline after Enbridge Energy last week reported “significant damage” to an anchor support on the pipeline. (Courtesy photo)

Enbridge Energy must temporarily cease operations of the Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac, an Ingham County judge ruled Thursday. 

Circuit Court Judge James Jamo has granted Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request to temporarily shut down the pipeline after Enbridge Energy last week reported “significant damage” to an anchor support on one of the pipeline’s two legs.

In a decision issued Thursday, Jamo ordered Canadian oil company Enbridge to cease operations “as immediately as possible,” and no more than 24 hours from the order’s issuance.

Nessel campaigned for office in 2018 on a promise to shut down Line 5. She is pursuing separate lawsuits intended to permanently shutter the pipeline and asked for the temporary restraining order and injunction Monday.

In a statement Thursday, Nessel said she was grateful for the ruling, but it is “only a short-term fix.”

“If the lines are put back into operation, one mismanaged incident or accident would result in a historic catastrophe for our state,” Nessel said in the statement. “Work must continue toward complete removal of Line 5 from our waters.” 

Nessel said she remains alarmed that Enbridge still hasn’t said what damaged the anchor support. In response to questions from Bridge earlier this week, an Enbridge spokesman said the matter is still under investigation.

Jamo’s order forces both legs of Line 5 to remain closed until he rules on the injunction request. A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

After discovering the damage last Thursday, Enbridge stopped petroleum transports in both legs of the pipeline and used divers and a remote-operated vehicle to investigate. 

By Saturday afternoon, Enbridge had reopened the west leg after saying it had determined it was not damaged. The east leg remains closed.

That prompted outcry from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Nessel, both of whom said Enbridge had failed to fully involve the state in its response. 

In a letter Saturday, Whitmer asked Enbridge CEO Al Monaco to shut down the line until and provide the state with engineering reports, photographs, video and other evidence of the damage, as well as a full report about what caused the damage and how Enbridge will prevent it from happening again.

Enbridge continued to operate the west line. In court filings, Enbridge lawyers argued the company answers to federal regulators with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, and not to the state. 

Federal regulators had “no objections” to reopening the west leg, Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said in a statement.

In his order Thursday, Jamo disagreed.

Jamo noted that under a 1953 state easement that grants the company permission to site the pipeline in the bottomlands, Enbridge must exercise “due care” in its Line 5 operations.

Enbridge failed to “provide sufficient documentation to the State of Michigan related to the nature, extent, and cause(s) of the newly-discovered damage,” Jamo wrote, which left the state unable to assess any lingering risk of harm. 

“The severe risk of harm that may result from [Enbridge’s] operation of the West Line if wrong in its conclusion that it can safely do so in spite of recent damage to Line 5 of unknown origin is so substantial and irreparable, and endangers so many communities and livelihoods and the natural resources of Michigan, the danger far exceeds the risk of financial loss,” of a temporary shutdown, Jamo wrote.  

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Comments

Vince Caruso
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 2:49pm

Judge James Jamo was correct to give Enbridge 24 hours to halt transporting oil and liquified gas through Enbridge’s damaged Line 5 pipelines. Gov. Gretchen Whtimer should now revoke Enbridge easement agreement with the state of Michigan through the upper Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The Judge’s order specifically cites many violations of the 1953 easement and agreements they made with the State of Michigan in his decision.

Attorney General Nessel’s actions against Enbridge in failing to exercise due care in its operation of the pipeline in our Great Lakes.

The value of theses waters are incalculable and need to be fully protected for this and the next many many generations.

You can live without oil but you cannot live without clean fresh water which Michigan is the Saudi Araba of Clean Fresh Water, if we can protect it for the natural systems which we are a part of.

Water is Life
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 2:33pm

Yes! Recommend Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan for all to read. The Great Lakes impact EVERYONE, not just we the faithful stewards.

Anonymous
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 3:37pm

Oh Happy Day!

Bill
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 8:35am

So where is the article about the effects on the people of Michigan?

Dan Moerman
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 9:43am

None. The stuff continues on to the east where it <<again>> goes under a river, this time the St Clair River and ends up in Sarnia, for use throughout Canada. Just imagine what would happen if THAT pipeline broke.

Sarah johnson
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 10:29am

Also interested in impact on Michiganders. Are there?

Shut it down
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 2:35pm

Very very minimal, if any. There are much safer alternatives. If you have to ask, then you have your answer.

Enough Corruption
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 2:29pm

It's a good start. Close it down permanently. Illegal sweetheart deal done behind GOP closed doors. Follow the money.