Line 5 & Protect the Great Lakes

Approximately 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids flow daily through Enbridge’s “Line 5,” a pair of antiquated 64-year-old pipelines just west of the Mackinac Bridge.

Line 5 would never be built under the Straits of Mackinac today, and its future “days are numbered”

-Attorney General Bill Schuette, July 2015

Governor Snyder has failed to act on Line 5, Attorney General Schuette should not make the same mistake.

Line 5 starts in Superior, Wisconsin and splits into two pipes as it cuts through the Straits of Mackinac on its way to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. It threatens the drinking water supply for 5 million Michigan residents. Line 5 has failed 29 times since 1968, spilling at least 1.13 million gallons of oil. Thankfully, up to the this point, these spills have not occurred under the Straits, but the risk going forward remains severe.

Schuette has expressed reservations about the pipeline, saying that “in today’s world, the state would not likely permit the construction of two pipelines running underwater through such a sensitive area.” He has also said the pipeline’s “days are numbered” and called for its closure, declaring that science, technology and common sense should drive the timeline.

“The safety and security of our Great Lakes is etched in the DNA of every Michigan resident, and the final decision on Line 5 needs to include a discussion with those that rely on propane for heating their homes, and depend on the pipeline for employment,” he said.

Despite all of his stated concern about the pipeline, to date, Schuette has taken no concrete action to shut it down. As Michigan’s Chief Legal Officer, Schuette has full and independent authority to revoke the easement giving Enbridge permission to have the twin pipelines lay on publicly-owned lake bottomlands. Instead, Schuette has only threatened that the pipeline’s ‘days are numbered,’ while refusing to take decisive action, despite abundant evidence of Enbridge’s lack of stewardship and repeated violations of its easement conditions.

A 2010 pipeline rupture by Enbridge — the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history — resulted in more than 800,000 gallons of oil dumping into the Kalamazoo River watershed. Schuette took over four years to reach a settlement with Enbridge (the same company operating Line 5) and the resulting financial penalties were panned for being an insufficient rebuke of Enbridge’s negligence and not enough to fully address the clean up.

The spill occurred after the pipeline’s protective coating failed to prevent corrosion — corrosion which greatly weakened the pipeline until a 6-foot rupture burst and gushed oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in July 2010. Despite alarm bells going off at its headquarters in Edmonton, Enbridge officials did not turn off the flow of oil or investigate the incident for eighteen hours.

In total, the Kalamazoo disaster cost over $1 billion to clean up. It sickened people and killed fish and wildlife. Schuette touted the $75 million settlement’s focus on restoration work, rather than fines. But questions remain about how far the money actually goes in achieving long-term restoration goals for the river and whether it was a sufficient penalty for the economic, social and ecological damages caused by Enbridge’s reckless behavior.

So far, Attorney General Schuette is trusting the word of Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company that operates Line 5, which insists that the pipeline is safe.

Enbridge has repeatedly violated its agreement with the state to operate Line 5 in the Great Lakes, which requires Line 5 to be secured to the lake-bed every 75 feet. This is to prevent powerful, shifting currents in the Straits from jostling or breaking the pipes.

In 2014, Enbridge told us they had fixed problems with missing supports and that Line 5 was properly secured to the lake-bed. Yet two years later, they violated the state agreement again for lack of proper pipeline supports. Government documents now show nearly 250 cases between 2005 and 2016 where Enbridge failed to support the pipeline within the 75-foot safety mark.

In summer of 2017, we further learned that several sections of Line 5 were missing required protective coating–leaving the bare metal of the pipe exposed to the elements. Enbridge tried to downplay this in the media, calling the exposed areas “Band-Aid “sized sections, but reality was far different.

The largest patch of exposed pipeline was discovered to be 16 inches long and 10 inches wide. Another area was 13 feet long, and a mysterious “white deposit” was found on other sections.

If that wasn’t enough, Enbridge ultimately admitted that the damage to the coating occurred by “human error” while their own technicians were working on the pipe–months earlier. Enbridge knew the safety coating was damaged and did nothing about it.

This is the track record of the company that Attorney General Bill Schuette is trusting to keep our Great Lakes safe.



Tell Bill Schuette – Stand up for the Great Lakes Now!

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Paid for by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters

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