Enbridge, Michigan sign agreement governing Line 5 evaluation

Dec. 4, 2017
Enbridge Inc. has signed an agreement with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder requiring the owners of Line 5 take immediate steps to improve environmental protection for the Great Lakes and other state waterways.

Enbridge Inc. has signed an agreement with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder requiring the owners of Line 5 take immediate steps to improve environmental protection for the Great Lakes and other state waterways.

"Business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable and we are going to ensure the highest level of environmental safety standards are implemented to protect one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources," the governor said. "The items required in this agreement are good strides forward. The state is evaluating the entire span of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline and its future, but we cannot wait for the analyses to be completed before taking action to defend our waterways," he said.

Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-in. OD pipeline that begins in Superior, Wis., and ends in Sarnia, Ont. Line 5 transports as much as 540,000 b/d of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.

Congressman Fred Upton, chair of the Subcommittee on Energy in the US House of Representatives, has been working closely with the state on addressing concerns he has about Enbridge operations. "This issue is not going away until it gets fixed," Upton said. "Zero tolerance for error is the only thing we will accept along with the highest safety standards in place to ensure the Great Lakes will not be at risk. I look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Snyder and the state of Michigan in coordinating a state and federal response. We will stay on the case through completion."

The agreement requires Enbridge to:

• Replace the portion of Line 5 crossing beneath the St. Clair River with a new pipe in a tunnel under the river. Similar pipeline construction for Line 6B was successfully accomplished at this site a few years ago. The St. Clair River is an important source of drinking water and an environmentally sensitive location. The underground replacement line will significantly lower the risk that oil could reach the river or the Great Lakes.

• Undertake a study, in conjunction with the state, on the placement of a new pipeline or the existing dual pipelines in a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The state's final alternatives analysis report, released Nov. 20, identified tunneling as an alternative to the current pipelines. The joint study will examine several possible techniques and allow a much more detailed examination on the technical feasibility of such a tunnel.

• Temporarily shut down operation of Line 5 in the straits during periods of sustained adverse weather conditions (as defined in the agreement), because those conditions do not allow effective response to potential oil spills.

• Assess the possible installation of underwater technologies, including cameras, to better monitor the pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

• Implement technologies that improve the safety of Line 5 in the straits by allowing faster detection and a more immediate response in the event of a spill.

• Undertake measures to mitigate a potential vessel anchor strike on Line 5 beneath the straits. A vessel anchor strike was identified in the final alternatives analysis as one of the most serious threats to Line 5 safety in the straits.

• In partnership with the state, implement additional measures to minimize the likelihood of an oil spill at every Line 5 water crossing in Michigan.

It also calls on the company to increase transparency by:

• Providing opportunity for the state to fully participate in each of the evaluations required under the agreement.

• Providing all information requested by the state about the operation of Line 5 in Michigan.

• Meeting regularly with the state to assess and discuss any changes to the pipeline's operation.

The agreement includes deadlines for each action. The state will hire its own experts to monitor Enbridge's actions and review and verify the company's data. The agreement requires the company to cooperatively identify and make available to the state relevant information regarding the operation of Line 5. The full agreement can be found on the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) web site.

The agreement does not represent a final decision by the state regarding Line 5, but instead provides a clear schedule on which a decision will either be reached cooperatively with Enbridge or the state will take another path. As these measures are put in place, the evaluation of Line 5 called for by the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report will continue. That evaluation is being conducted by the Michigan Agency for Energy, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, with advice from the PSAB.

The state will be accepting public feedback on its final alternatives analysis report online and at public meetings in December addressing what should be done regarding Line 5 in the long term.

A contract for a separate independent risk analysis—led by Michigan Technological University—is being finalized. These analyses, along with public input and the new agreement, will shape a final recommendation from the state on the future of Line 5.