Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline temporarily shut down in the Straits of Mackinac

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline temporarily shut down in the Straits of Mackinac
April 16, 2018 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo by Gregory Varnum via wikimedia

Some lawmakers want more

A power outage combined with snow, sleet, high winds and 12-foot high waves have prompted the temporary shutdown of the Line 5 Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy tells Great Lakes Now that contrary to some reports, it was the power outage that caused the 4.5 mile long section of pipeline between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula to be temporarily shut down late Sunday morning.

Photo by Great Lakes Bureau

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy, Photo by Great Lakes Bureau

Duffy tells Great Lakes Now , “Line 5 is temporarily shut down due to a power outage at the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.  Out of an abundance of caution, Enbridge will be electing to leave the line down until the weather conditions improve at the Straits.”

U.S. Senator Gary Peters office says Peters urged The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to step in to temporarily shut down Line 5 not only due to the power outage and the severe weather, but due to suspected anchor damage which caused three dents in the 65-year old pipeline.

And after last week’s damage to powerlines and the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits, Michigan State Senator Wayne Schmidt, a Republican from Traverse City, called for a temporary shutdown of Line 5 until the investigation of the recent damage is complete.

Photo by stabenow.senate.gov

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Photo by stabenow.senate.gov

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Lansing, also called for the temporary shutdown of the pipeline ahead of the storm, and she released this statement: “The reported damage to Line 5 in the Straits is very disturbing. A visual inspection must be completed to confirm that the safety and integrity of the line was not compromised. Line 5 should not operate until we know it’s safe.”

Senator Peters, a Democrat from Michigan’s Bloomfield Township, says The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is reporting potential swells that exceed the conditions under which on-site cleanup equipment is able to adequately respond to a spill.

Photo by HOW Coalition via Wikimedia

Michigan Senator Gary Peters, Photo by HOW Coalition

Senator Peters says, “It is simply reckless and irresponsible to operate Line 5 under the current weather conditions in the Straits of Mackinac. I was able to work with PHMSA Administrator Elliott in pressing Enbridge to take the right action and suspend Line 5 operations through the storm. Not only do we lack a clear understanding of the damage to Line 5, but the on-site response equipment available is completely inadequate to clean a potential oil spill under current conditions, putting the Great Lakes in grave – and unnecessary – danger.”

A coolant fluid leak of at least 600 gallons containing the potentially hazardous benzene compound which may have been caused by damage from a marine vessel occurred in submerged electric cables owned by American Transmission Company (ATC)  in the Straits of Mackinac at the beginning of April. Enbridge then investigated its own pipelines nearby and discovered 3 dents but tells Great Lakes Now there was no structural damage and no oil or natural gas liquids from Line 5 leaked in to the Straits. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating.  Michigan Governor Snyder is calling for legal action against the shipping company found responsible for the pipeline damage once the shipping company is identified.

Photo by nwf.org

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes Regional Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation, Photo by nwf.org

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation and a member of Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, responded to Sunday’s temporary shutdown with this statement: “It shouldn’t take a Senator to press Enbridge to shut down Line 5 when lake swells top 12 feet. Their own inadequate agreement with Governor Snyder promised to shut down Line 5 when waves topped eight feet. Time and time again, Enbridge proves by its actions and inactions that we cannot trust its operation of an aging pipeline for the protection of the water, wildlife and way of life which depend on the Great Lakes. While we still don’t know the extent of the damage following the recent anchor strike, this temporary shutdown should continue until there is independent verification that all needed repairs are made, including to all previously reported damaged protective coating, and a plan is in place to permanently decommission Line 5.”

Enbridge’s Ryan Duffy tells Great Lakes Now, “Enbridge takes the safety of the environment and our pipelines very seriously.  We understand the sensitive environment in which Line 5 operates. The Great Lakes are a treasure that must be protected. We are continuing to monitor the conditions and provide updates to the State, Coast Guard and PHMSA. We will restart as soon as possible.”

(From Great Lakes Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Geist: to find out more about the laws surrounding pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, watch our upcoming documentary “Beneath the Surface: The Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes”  #GLNline5doc  which will air on Detroit Public Television Wednesday, April 25th at 10pm) 

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