WUOMFM

3 things to note from the Enbridge documents released today

May 13, 2016

The state of Michigan, environmental groups, and reporters like myself have been asking Enbridge for more specific information about the condition of the pipelines for more than two years now.

The company has released limited information in the past, but stopped short of releasing detailed reports that show the condition of the pipelines. When it comes to this kind of information, the company holds all the cards. 

The state has no regulatory authority over hazardous liquid pipelines in Michigan.

The state has no regulatory authority over hazardous liquid pipelines in Michigan, and the federal government's authority amounts to an audit of company records to make sure they're following federal law. 

The only reason the state can push Enbridge for more information is because the company has a legal contract with the state. The two 20-inch pipelines run under the Straits of Mackinac under the conditions of a 1953 easement.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has made it public that he wants to eventually shut down the pipelines. His office asked for more details from the company last March.

The AG's office received the documents about a month ago. Spokesperson Andrea Bitely says it took that long to prepare the documents for public release.

“We spent the last couple of weeks preparing this website and making sure we had all the documents loaded correctly, and making sure they were sorted in a way that made sense,” she said.

You can view the documents here.

There's a lot of information to go through. Here's a quick list of three highlights that stood out to me:

1) Reports of inspection tools showing areas of corrosion in the pipelines

This is one piece of information the company has been asked to provide for a long time. Enbridge had released some of this information on its website last December, but not the full reports. This is from the report on the easternmost pipeline

A total of 141 metal loss features have been detected on the inspection survey of which the deepest was 37%. These are distributed throughout the pipeline. Approximately 10% of the total number of spools have metal loss reported within them.

And this is from the report on the westernmost pipeline:

A total of 294 metal loss features have been detected on the inspection survey of which the deepest was 41%. These are distributed throughout the pipeline. Approximately 17% of the total number of spools have metal loss reported within them.

Enbridge maintains that these metal loss features are within safety thresholds. The federal government allows pipelines to operate when there's up to 80% of metal loss in the pipeline.

The next inline inspection is expected in 2018.

2) Spill maps

The company took issue with "worst-case" spill scenario maps produced earlier this year by the University of Michigan's Water Center. When we asked if they had spill maps of their own, an Enbridge spokesperson told us, "we don't have anything we can share publicaly as far as spill maps."

An image from a worst case scenario spill map produced for Enbridge in 2013.
Credit RPS ASA

Today's document release shows that Enbridge contracted with RPS ASA in 2013 to produce its own spill maps.

See that report here.

3) Estimate of the cost of a worst case scenario spill 

The company also has some information about what it would cost to clean up the oil should it spill in the Straits of Mackinac.

It had a contractor evaluate two "worst-case scenario spills" for them.

From that report:

The estimated cost to clean up a worst‐case discharge in the Straits would range between $450MM and $1B depending on seasonal conditions.

The estimate shows the cost of a spill cleanup goes up if it were to occur in the fall or winter.

The state is working to hire an outside company to look over the risks and alternatives for the pipelines in the Straits. Attorney General Schuette's office says they’re still going through proposals for that work now.

In full disclosure, Enbridge is a financial supporter of Michigan Radio.

*This post was updated on 5/16/2016.