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Line 5

bill mckibben
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Despite consensus among most scientists that climate change is real, and that humans are contributing by burning fossil fuels, there is still resistance to actually doing something about it.

Oil, gas, and coal companies are fighting it. So are businesses that rely on fossil fuels, and politicians who are more worried about the economic costs today than they are about threats to life and the economy down the road.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

Monday's meeting of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board was filled with worry about the condition of Line 5, the two 64-year-old Enbridge pipelines carrying oil and liquid natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge recently revealed there are areas of the pipeline where the protective coating has worn off. At first, the company said the areas were "Band-Aid" sized. But then, the story changed.

Screen showing Line 5 on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Earlier this week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette officially confirmed what everybody knew: He is running for governor, or more exactly, for the Republican nomination next year.

When he made his announcement, he said a version of what all politicians say; he is doing this, not for himself, but for the people, for all of us. Well, I know a good way he can start to prove that to us and help his candidacy at the same time:

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Michigan’s energy chief says Enbridge downplayed the significance of damage to the protective coating on its oil and gas pipeline that runs under the Mackinac Straits.

Parts of the coating were removed while workers installed safety anchors on a portion of Line 5 that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The patches where the metal was scraped bare are close to a foot in diameter. That's much larger than Enbridge initially reported.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

The state is ordering Enbridge Energy to take swift action to fix portions of the Line 5 energy pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge reported to the state that small portions of enamel coating were accidentally removed in two places. The coating protects the oil and gas line that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac from corrosion.

Melody Kindraka of the state Department of Environmental Quality says there’s no immediate threat to the Great Lakes, but it’s concerning that the problem was the result of human error.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines run under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

I've been up north, as we say in this state, for the last week, on Lake Michigan about fifty miles from the Straits of Mackinac. Fifty miles, that is, from Line 5, the oil pipeline – actually, twin pipelines -- under the straits. There has been a lot of concern about Line 5 in recent years.

People have suddenly discovered the existence of the line, which can carry as much as 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and liquid natural gas a day, pumped at high pressure under the lakes.

Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

State agencies have weighed in on the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline.

There’s still time for people to comment on a report about potential alternatives to the Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Public Service Commission and Office of the Attorney General gave their thoughts over the weekend.

The line sends oil and liquid natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Michigan Supreme Court this week said “not yet” to a group trying to stop fracking in Michigan.

The group, The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, is now on its third attempt to get a question on the ballot to ban the controversial process used to drill hard-to-reach pockets of natural gas.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines run under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

For the Fourth of July, former Michigan attorney general Frank Kelley invited me to watch fireworks from the porch at the Captain’s Quarters overlooking the harbor on Mackinac Island.

From there, I could see fireworks simultaneously from Cheboygan and Mackinaw City, in addition to those being fired from a barge not far offshore from the island.

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sued the City of Flint this week. The state says the city council's refusal to approve a long term deal to buy water from a Detroit-area system endangers a public already troubled by a lead-tainted water crisis. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss the lawsuit filed by the state agency that's been blamed for much of Flint's water crisis.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines run under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan recently terminated its contract with an independent contractor that was analyzing any potential risk posed by Enbridge Energy’s 64-year-old Line 5 pipeline.

Firing that contractor leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The state says the company, Det Norske Veritas, a Norwegian firm, failed to follow conflict of interest rules. An employee of the firm was working on the state’s request for a risk analysis of the 64-year-old pipeline and then also did work for Enbridge.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

The state of Michigan has scrapped a risk study on Enbridge’s Line 5 and fired the contractor just a week before a first draft of the report was to be released.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Enbridge Energy says it’s pressure testing the structural integrity of Line Five beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The company says the results appear to show the oil and gas pipeline does not pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The company tested the first of two underwater pipes over the weekend.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines run under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports the board passed a resolution Tuesday in opposition to Enbridge Inc.'s Line 5 pipeline. The resolution passed on a 7-3 vote.

15 other counties, 24 cities and 26 townships throughout the state have also voted in favor of shutting down Line 5.

The more than 60-year-old pipeline travels through Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It was created to be a safer and more efficient way to transport crude oil.

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Last night (May 2) voters in Ann Arbor and Kent County approved funding for schools. Two proposals that would have allowed the construction of wind farms spanning several townships in Huron County were defeated.

This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

A group hopes to get a ballot question before voters that would ban Enbridge from transporting oil through its Line 5 pipelines, which run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Attorney Jeffrey Hank is with the group, Keep Our Lakes Great.

Hank says while there are other efforts underway, including studies assessing the risks of the pipeline and alternatives to it, "we can't dawdle. After Flint and all these other lessons, we've seen we can't just sit around. So if the state doesn't do something, we're going to put the question before voters."

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

Representative Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor,  says he’s talked with people from around Michigan who are worried that if Enbridge's Line 5 oil pipeline were ever to spill, the Great Lakes would be devastated.

“It’s running under the Straits of Mackinac, pumping millions of gallons of oil a day,” Rabhi said. “If that old pipeline were to rupture, we would have a major catastrophe.”

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines run under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In a new report released today, the National Wildlife Federation took a look at data on currents in the Straits of Mackinac. That’s where Enbridge’s twin pipelines run along the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Mike Shriberg is the executive director of the Federation’s Great Lakes office.

“What this report shows is that there are additional stresses on this pipeline beyond what it was designed for," he says.

In 2010, oil spilled into a creek near the Kalamazoo River from Enbridge Line 6b
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


It was April of 2010 when Enbridge Line 6b ruptured, spilling more than a million gallons of Canadian heavy crude oil into a creek near Kalamazoo.

It was the largest inland spill in United States history.

That spill gave Michiganders a very good reason to sit up and pay closer attention to the nearly 3,300 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines that weave through our state, particularly Enbridge Line 5, which runs in the Straits of Mackinac.

Part of a map of the easternmost oil and natural gas liquid pipeline that shows areas of "coating delamination." The east line shows 11 such areas. The west line shows seven.
Enbridge document submitted to the EPA

An Enbridge work plan document shows areas where a protective coating around its twin oil pipelines running through Lake Michigan might be failing.

Enbridge posted the document on its website last fall. It shows 18 specific areas along the pipelines where there is “coating delamination.” The 64-year-old pipelines were installed with a coating around them to protect for corrosion.

Russ / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

The Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline stretches from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. It crosses northern Wisconsin into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then under the Straits of Mackinac which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

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The path of the 64-year-old pipeline also crosses the Bad River Reservation in northeast Wisconsin.

According to Robert Blanchard, the chairman of the Bad River Band Tribal Council, the easement under which Enbridge has been operating the pipeline on the Bad River Reservation expired in 2013. Last week, the council voted not to renew the easement, which could eventually lead to removal of the section of the pipeline that crosses through the reservation.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

Legislation has been introduced in Congress calling for a shut down of Enbridge's Line 5 if a federal study shows that it threatens the Great Lakes.

Line 5 is the controversial, 63 year-old underwater pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

The legislation would require the federal government to conduct a study to determine the economic and environmental risks to the Great Lakes from possible failures of Line 5, and it puts a 12 month deadline on completing the study.

Republican Dave Trott and Democrat Debbie Dingell are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

UPDATED 10/4/16 at 12:50 pm

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Enbridge Energy can install four additional anchor supports on the Line 5 pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The MDEQ issued a permit for the four supports to maintain the integrity and safety of the pipeline.

Enbridge still needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

 

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan. It splits into two pipelines at the Straits, and it was recently announced that the supports that hold the pipeline in place are not in compliance with a 1953 easement agreement with the state.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

UPDATED at 9:34 pm on 8/3/16

Some of the supports for Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac are not as close together as they should be, according to State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

That’s gotten the company into some hot water with the state of Michigan.

Supports help keep the pipeline stable as it is buffeted by the powerful currents of the Straits. 

Enbridge told the state in 2014 the pipeline has supports every 75 feet, as required by the state's 1953 easement.

The confluence of Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in 2010 (left), and in 2015 (right).
USEPA and Mark Brush / USEPA, Michigan Radio

You probably remember hearing about fines levied against Enbridge for the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill before. You're right. You did.

The company paid fines and settlements to the state of Michigan, fines to tribes, and fines to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and settlements with nearby homeowners and landowners.

Screen showing Line 5 on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan has contracted with Det Norske Veritas to conduct a risk analysis of Enbridge Energy Line 5, two oil pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac.

A separate consultant, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, will study the alternatives to keeping the aging pipelines open.

Environmental groups say a failure of the pipelines would be a catastrophe for the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Energy says they’ll spend $7 million over the next two years to buy new clean up tools in case there’s a spill along its Line 5 pipeline.   There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Line 5 where it crosses at the Straits of Mackinac. At the
Enbridge Energy

Officials with Enbridge Energy say they’ll spend $7 million over the next two years to buy new clean up tools in case there’s a spill along its Line 5 pipeline.

 

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Line 5 where it crosses at the Straits of Mackinac. At the Straits, the oil and liquid natural gas pipeline splits into two smaller diameter pipelines to make the underwater crossing.

 

A "water is life" protest sign.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

For the next few months, environmentalists are traveling the length of an oil pipeline in Michigan. They hope to convince government officials to shut it down.

Shouting “Remember the Kalamazoo”, protesters made their position clear during a mock oil spill drill along the St. Clair River a few days ago. 

They want Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline to shut down. The pipeline snakes its way through Michigan, including crossing the Mackinac Straits.

“Pollution doesn’t know borders,” says Randy Emerson, with the Council of Canadians, “so what happens here can affect us.”

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