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Gov. Snyder rejects panel recommendation to temporarily shut down Line 5

Jan 29, 2018

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
Credit SCREENSHOT FROM ENBRIDGE REPORT TO THE STATE

Governor Rick Snyder is rejecting a proposal to shut down an oil pipeline that runs beneath the Mackinac Straits.

Last month the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (MPSAB), a panel created by the governor, urged Snyder to temporarily shut down Enbridge Line 5 until it can be inspected for gaps in the external coating and all the gaps are repaired.

But today, the governor says recent tests indicated there “is not a risk of imminent failure.”  

In a letter to the Pipeline Safety Advisory  Board, Snyder said:

An immediate and unexpected shutdown of the pipeline for several months would very likely create a propane supply crisis like Michigan faced in the winter of 2013/2014, potentially jeopardizing the health and safety of Michigan residents.

In recent years, the governor has declared energy emergencies in the U.P. due to propane price spikes and shortages.

Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline that begins in Superior, Wisconsin, and terminates in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.

Last fall, the Snyder administration reached an agreement with Enbridge on a plan to address issues with the pipeline.  

While not addressing the MPSAB’s recommendations nor the governor’s response, Enbridge issued a statement  saying it will continue to implementing the agreement signed last year to  improve safety and transparency of its 65-year-old twin underwater pipelines.

One of those issues cited in the agreement concerns operation of the pipeline during severe weather creating waves higher than 8 feet for at least an hour. Those conditions would hamper efforts to contain an oil spill in the Straits.

The MPSAB wanted the governor to revise an agreement with Enbridge to shut down the pipeline during "Sustained Adverse Weather Conditions."

Gov. Snyder's response:

“Given the amount of negotiating time and effort that went into that specific provision, a request to reopen that provision would be extremely unlikely to result in an agreement to move in the direction envisioned by the resolution.”

The governor notes that a study of Line 5’s issues is underway. 

Michael Shriberg is a member of the MPSAB and the regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation.

He accuses the governor of “kicking the can down the road.”

“The state’s failure to produce a timely and effective risk and alternatives analysis should not be an excuse for defensiveness and inaction,” Shriberg says in a written statement.  

Shriberg says Enbridge gave the board “false information” about the pipeline’s protective coating. 

The Line 5 pipeline is owned by Enbridge Energy, which is a corporate sponsor of Michigan Radio.