Environment & Science
5:14 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

U.S. Senators want more info on Enbridge pipeline running through Straits of Mackinac

Three U.S. senators want a federal agency to check on the safety of an oil pipeline that runs beneath Great Lakes waters.

The 60-year-old pipeline passes beneath the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. It was the first pipeline Enbridge built through Michigan.

Environmentalists protested the pipeline expansion earlier this year. They sent divers down to check out the condition of the pipeline firsthand.

Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan want the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to provide details of the agency’s safety tests on the line. PHMSA is a division of the Department of Transportation.

Enbridge Energy added 50,000 barrels a day of capacity to the line this year. It can pump more than a half-million barrels of oil products a day.

The senators say a similar break in the Straits could be disastrous.

But Enbridge notes this older pipeline is seamless and the walls are an inch thick, unlike the pipeline that burst near Marshall, Michigan in 2010.

Plus, Enbridge says this pipeline doesn’t carry the heavy diluted bitumen that’s still getting cleaned out of the Kalamazoo River.

It’s coated with a type of coal tar that lasts longer than the tape coating used on the one that ruptured.

“When we’ve had to do any sort of dig on that pipeline for maintenance or repair, we’ve heard from the crews out on the field that the line still looks brand new,” Enbridge spokesman Janson Manshum said during a press conference earlier this year.

Manshum says the industry stopped using the coal tar coating because it was hazardous to workers who had to apply it in the field.