What’s next for Line Five?

What’s next for Line Five?
September 15, 2017 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of Gregory Varnum via Wikimedia

On Monday, September 18th,  the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) will meet in Lansing, Michigan for another meeting involving the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline.

Once again, there will be public comment from 9 am to noon. At 1:30, the usual bureaucratic rituals will take place.

At 1:45, the PSAB  Board will then meet to hear the following : The Independent Risk Analysis discussion, followed by an update on the Independent Alternatives Analysis. At 3pm, there will be an update on the Line 5 coating issue, followed by a discussion of Pipeline Mapping. Then, it’s the Pipeline Safety Best Practices and Siting Subcommittee Report.

This meeting – and similar discussions on the agenda – have  been repeated several times over the past two years.

But there is something different in the atmosphere surrounding this particular board meeting in the wake of the most recent report about missing protective coating on the 4.5 mile long  pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Enbridge-owned pipeline that carries 23 millions gallons of oil a day from Sarnia, Ontario to Superior, Wisconsin is 64 years old.

And the drumbeat of questions about whether the pipeline is safe is getting louder.

Photo courtesy of Detroit Regional Chamber via Wikimedia

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, courtesy of Detroit Regional Chamber

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder created the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board in September of 2015 to answer questions and ease mounting concern about the pipeline after the worst inland oil spill in history on the Kalamazoo River in 2010 along an Enbridge-owned pipeline.

But even Governor Snyder seems to be getting impatient with the constant reports about corrosion of protective coating and bare metal exposure.

Last week, Governor Snyder issued this statement to Great Lakes Now: “I am greatly concerned by the new information regarding Line 5. Protection of Michigan’s natural resources is of utmost importance. I have directed our departments to accelerate an aggressive review of Enbridge operations and maintenance procedures throughout the state.”

On Thursday, September 14th, MLive’s Garret Ellison reported the following: “ Patches of bare metal larger than dinner plates are visible in photos of protective coating gaps on Enbridge Line 5 submitted to the state of Michigan this weekend….Seven pipeline “ holidays,” or areas of external anti-corrosion coating loss, are detailed in inspection documents sent to the state on Friday, Sept. 8, and obtained by MLive. Several holidays are larger than the “Band-Aid“-sized areas Enbridge initially described when the gaps were revealed. The largest patch of exposed pipeline metal is 16 inches long and 10 inches wide. Others are narrower but also exceed a foot in length.”

DPTV’s Great Lakes Bureau greatlakesnow.org has just received the following statement (on Thursday, September 14th) from Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy:

“As we informed the State of Michigan, Enbridge is expanding and accelerating its coating inspection program to immediately address both the identified coating repairs and the inspection of the coating at all existing support anchor locations. 

Enbridge will deploy the resources necessary to immediately begin the repairs and the additional inspections.  Repair work should begin as soon as next week and will occur simultaneously with the expanded coating inspections.

Visual inspection by divers, along with cathodic protection readings, and recent 2017 inline inspection data all confirm that there is no corrosion or metal loss at the locations with the coating gaps.  Likewise, the high-pressure hydrotest recently successfully conducted by Enbridge on the dual pipelines at the Straits demonstrates that the safety and integrity of the two lines is not in question.  Having said this, we are taking immediate action to complete the repairs of the gaps in the coating.

This continued work underscores the effectiveness of Enbridge’s monitoring and maintenance program, which continues to exceed federal standards and reflects Enbridge’s commitment to Michigan and safe pipeline operations. Enbridge is proud that its safety management program worked as intended to identify and address promptly a concern and that the twin pipelines remain in excellent condition. “

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, who is also a member of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, tells Great Lakes Now: 

“The finding of additional areas of missing coating on the Mackinac Straits oil pipeline continues a pattern of poor maintenance and lack of information from Enbridge Energy.  These gaps in coating were apparently caused by human error when Enbridge was attempting to fix yet another problem for which they were out of compliance over a year ago, lack of adequate supports. They continue to be caught misrepresenting the true integrity of their pipelines, telling the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board in March there were no unexposed gaps. Whether they knew and didn’t disclose it, or didn’t know about it for over a year, they have proven that they are not operating and maintaining their pipelines with due diligence. Why should we continue to trust this company with the future of the Great Lakes? Michigan should not accept this existential threat to the Great Lakes so that Enbridge can use a shortcut to get mostly Canadian oil to mostly export markets.”

On Tuesday, September 12th, 2017,  DPTV’s Great Lakes Bureau greatlakesnow.org interviewed several leaders on issues involving threats to the Great Lakes, They all said Line 5 posed a grave danger.


DPTV’s Great Lakes Bureau will keep you posted on what’s next for Line 5.


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