DTPV’s Great Lakes Bureau participated in a Unified Command news briefing in Chebyogan via phone and also received reports of the latest actions from Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office. Here are the most recent developments:
- Unified Command held a news briefing Tuesday, April 17, in Cheboygan, Michigan. Officials say the ATC power lines which were damaged by an anchor on April 1st will be inspected by underwater with R.O.V.’s (Remote Operated Vehicles) brought in specifically for this week’s investigation. Enbridge which owns the Line 5 pipeline – which is 12 yards east of the ATC power lines in the Straits of Mackinac – will use its own R.O.V’s to inspect its pipelines. Enbridge says Line 5 suffered 3 small dents in the marine vessel related incident and there was no structural damage to the pipeline. ATC will report back after getting further damage assessments from the R.O.V’s.
- Unified Command officials say no benzene and no PCB’s were discovered in samples from the 600-gallon spill of mineral oil used as insulation along the ATC power lines.
- Unified Command officials say there is no known damage to wildlife from the 600-gallon mineral oil spill.
- Unified Command officials say TransCanada, which also operates a natural gas pipeline in the Straits, is now investigating in the wake of the April 1st incident to find out if any damage occurred to its lines.
- Attorney General Bill Schuette has notified Vanenkevort Tug and Barge that he will bring civil action after his office says the company’s ship dragged an anchor across State-owned bottom lands and submerged electric and petroleum pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Schuette says the incident caused “the release of a hazardous substance and potentially harmed aquatic life and the lakebed.” Schuette says, “The vessel ignored markers in the channel and clearly identified hazards on navigational charts that make clear that an anchor should not be deployed in this area of the Straits. Allowing a large anchor to drag along the bottomlands has resulted in violations of state law, and we will hold Vanenkevort accountable.” Schuette says each discharge is punishable by a civil fine of up to $25,000 per day of violation.
We’ll keep you updated as more details come in.
If you missed the premier watch Beneath the Surface: The Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes now.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2018
Schuette: Vanenkevort Tug and Barge Faces Legal Action for Dragging Anchor Across ATC, Enbridge Lines in Straits
Escanaba-based company cited for causing discharge of mineral oil in the Straits of Mackinac and potential damage to State bottomlands
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has notified Vanenkevort Tug and Barge, Inc. that he will bring a civil action against the company whose ship dragged an anchor across State bottomlands and submerged electric and petroleum pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, causing the release of a hazardous substance and potentially harming aquatic life and the lakebed. The letter sent by Schuette to Vanenkevort is attached to this press release.
Based on available information, the Department of Attorney General has determined that the Vanenkevort-owned Clyde S. Vanenkevort passed through the Straits shipping channel at the time the ATC cables and Enbridge Line 5 pipelines were damaged on Sunday, April 1, 2018.
“Protecting our waters is part of being a Michiganian. The waters of the Great Lakes surround our home, and we have a duty to protect them,” said Schuette. “The vessel ignored markers in the channel and clearly identified hazards on navigational charts that make clear that an anchor should not be deployed in this area of Straits. Allowing a large anchor to drag along the bottomlands in the Straits has resulted in violations of state law, and we will hold Vanenkevort accountable.”
Schuette is enforcing the water resources protection portion of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, which forbids the direct or indirect discharge of substances into water that are potentially damaging to, among other things, fish and other aquatic life. Each discharge is punishable by a civil fine of up to $25,000 per day of violation, as well as damages for harm to natural resources, attorney’s fees and court costs.
Schuette also notified Vanenkevort that damage caused by its ship’s anchor has triggered common law claims, including public nuisance and trespassing on state-owned lands.
The civil action against Vanenkevort only applies to state civil violations, and does not address any federal law claims, or any criminal culpability or liability of any individuals who may be responsible for the anchor deployment or maintenance.
Governor Snyder Pushing to place Line 5 inside tunnel
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder today called on Enbridge to accelerate the identification of anchor strike mitigation measures and the evaluation of alternatives to replace pipelines that are required under the Governor’s November agreement with Enbridge. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, acting as Governor due to Snyder being out of state, also asked the Attorney General to initiate legal actions against the owners of the ship and other parties who may be responsible for recently damaging pipelines in the Straits.
Late last night, the state was informed by Enbridge that three small dents exist in Line 5, likely due to the same vessel activity that may have caused the damage to another line that released mineral spirits into the water. While Enbridge reported that the dents are very small and pose no threat to the pipeline, the state is demanding that its own experts verify this information. Gov. Snyder said this incident solidifies the need for completion of the alternatives studies that he demanded as part of the Enbridge agreement last November.
“An anchor strike was the largest risk identified in a previous independent analysis of the Enbridge pipeline, which is apparently what happened in the Straits last week. We need to accelerate these studies so they are completed as soon as feasibly and responsibly possible,” Snyder said. “We need the right answers, but we need them as soon as we can get them so that we can take action faster to protect the Great Lakes.”
Assuming studies show a tunnel is physically possible and construction would not cause significant environmental damage, the Governor will move to require Enbridge to construct the tunnel and decommission the existing Line 5 that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.
Earlier this year, Gov. Snyder had the state enter into an agreement with Enbridge that required the studies be on a fast track, with completion expected in June. Infrastructure under the Straits of Mackinac supplies petroleum, natural gas, electricity and telephone communications between the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.
The studies are looking at anchor strike mitigation measures and the potential for tunneling, which would eliminate anchor risks. The state also asked Enbridge today to engage with other companies with infrastructure in the Straits to enlist their assistance with the studies and the potential solutions.
Lt. Gov. Calley today asked the Attorney General to initiate legal action on behalf of the State of Michigan against the ship’s owners and operators or other potential responsible parties.
“There is no excuse for the ship’s actions, which risked devastating environmental harm as well as the loss of vital infrastructure for communications, electrical power, and heat for residents of the Upper Peninsula,” Calley said. “I have asked the Attorney General to begin legal action against the ship’s owners immediately to ensure every member of the maritime community understands the no-anchor zone is vital.”
Gov. Snyder also said the state will be doing an expedited review of other actions that can be taken to protect the straits. In addition, he would be reaching out to Michigan’s congressional delegation to assist with expediting the federal permitting process to allow for protective measures to be installed in the Straits of Mackinac.