Two Sides of the Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes

Two Sides of the Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes
January 12, 2018 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of Gregory Varnum via Wikimedia

Enbridge’s Ryan Duffy, Great Lakes Business Network’s Larry Bell

The end of November and the month of December brought many new developments for the Line 5 Pipeline which runs between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsula in the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

First, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced a new legal agreement with Enbridge calling for stricter safety standards which include mandatory temporary shutdowns of the 4.5 mile-long section between the Upper and Lower Peninsula when there is severe weather and waves above 8 feet.

The agreement also calls for replacing Line 5 that crosses beneath the St. Clair River with a new pipe in a tunnel under the river; a state study on the placement of a new pipeline or the existing dual pipelines in a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac;  utilization of new underwater technologies to better monitor the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac and improve safety; implementation of  measures to mitigate a potential vessel anchor strike along Line 5 beneath the Straits, and implementation of additional measures to minimize the likelihood of an oil spill along Line 5 crossings across the state of Michigan.

The agreement also calls for more transparency from Enbridge.

Photo courtesy of michigan.gov

Underwater image of Line 5, courtesy of michigan.gov

Just a week after the announcement of the new agreement, on December 5th, waves in the Straits reached above 8 feet, and the pipeline was shut down for more than 5 hours. On that day, the state also hired two new pipeline experts as part of an Enbridge study team.

On December 11, the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board held a meeting in Lansing, where, for the first time, the board passed resolutions calling for the temporary shutdown of Line 5 until the pipeline can be proven to be safe. No action has been taken on those resolutions.

The Line 5 Pipeline carries 23 million gallons of oil a day from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. It has been in operation since 1953.

Over the past year, Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Bureau has been covering many stories involving the controversy over the pipeline as well as filming a documentary called “Beneath the Surface: The Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes” that is scheduled to be broadcast on Detroit Public Television and PBS this spring.

During the course of filming this documentary, we sat down with two people who represent very different views on The Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline: Enbridge Communications Strategist Ryan Duffy, and a member of the Great Lakes Business Network and a known opponent of the Line 5, the President of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Larry Bell.  They both weighed in on the recent agreement between Governor Snyder and Enbridge.


  1. leonard Page 6 years ago

    95% of the 23 million gallons of canadian crude going daily thru the straits is pumped to sarnia. line 5 has leaked over a million gallons of oil since it was installed in 1953. michigan is a shortcut for canadian oil getting to market – mostly in canada or for export. why risk our great lakes?

  2. C. J. Seiler 6 years ago

    Let Us demand that all members of the board of directors and top executives through Vice President pledge 100% of all their personal assets, house, boat,car, investments, etc. to be used to finance the first effort to clean up a spill if the line fails. Any effort to hide assets is considered a criminal act. Let us have them put their money where their mouth is.

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