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Line 5

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.”

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

People who want Enbridge Energy's Line 5 shut down plan to make it an issue at next week's policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The oil pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac, near the island.

Enbridge Energy is the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S history, which happened when the company's Line 6B ruptured near Marshall, Michigan in 2010. 

The massive oil spill dismayed a lot of people, including Republican State Sen. Rick Jones. He says Michigan can't risk having a spill in the Great Lakes.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. and Canadian government agencies took part in a mock oil spill drill along the St. Clair River just south of Port Huron today.

With temperatures in the low 80s and a light breeze, it was a lovely day to respond to a fake disaster.

But while a few first responders spent a sunny day on boats in the river, most of the more than 200 people taking part in the exercise spent their time indoors dealing with a scenario for a fictional disaster that included the need to corral thousands of barrels of oil leaking from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Government agencies will practice responding to an oil spill from a pipeline crossing the St. Clair River tomorrow. 

The pipeline passes beneath the St. Clair River just south of Port Huron.

The drill will involve a simulated 13-minute, 5,000-barrel oil spill. The exercise will involve boats in the river and absorbent booms in the water, all to corral and collect fictional oil leaking from the pipeline.

The drill involves government agencies and the pipeline’s owner, Enbridge.

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

The National Wildlife Federation is suing a federal agency over safety concerns about an oil pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5 is operated by Enbridge Energy, the company responsible for a massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

A photocopy of a photo of Line 5 being installed in 1953.
State of Michigan

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. 

flickr user mtsn/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There are some new questions bubbling up concerning a decades-old oil spill in the Upper Peninsula.

Around 1980, Canadian oil transport company Enbridge discovered its Line 5 oil pipeline had sprung a leak and spilled an estimated five barrels of oil in the Hiawatha National Forest.

Yes, that’s the same Line 5 whose twin pipelines run under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new bill in Congress would shut down an oil and gas pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac, if a study shows it's a significant risk to the Great Lakes.

Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller introduced the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act on Wednesday.

The legislation calls for a comprehensive analysis of the environmental and economic threat that Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline poses to Great Lakes waters.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Colin McCarthy

There's a more-than-60-year-old underwater pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac. It's called Line 5, and is operated by Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The 2010 spill resulted in the release of about a million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo river. 

A new film follows a pair of Grand Rapids natives on their "fossil fuel-free" journey along the pipeline's 500-mile route. It's called Great Lakes, Bad Lines. 

Filmmaker Paul Hendricks joins us to talk about the film. 

A postcard from 1953 shows Line 5 being installed in the Straits of Mackinac. The group says it's proof the easement wasn't followed in the first place. Enbridge says that's not true.
Oil & Water Don't Mix

Several environmental groups and tribes say Enbridge Energy is operating its oil pipelines under Lake Michigan illegally. They sent a letter to Governor Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and others calling for the immediate shutdown of the twin pipelines.

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign put together a list of what they say are eight violations of the state’s easement with Enbridge.

Back in 1953, the state allowed the pipelines to cross the Straits of Mackinac under this legal contract.

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

Enbridge Energy has maintained that their twin oil and natural gas liquid pipelines under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac are safe.

But what if one of them did break open? Where might the oil go?

Today, the University of Michigan’s Water Center released new computer simulations to help answer that question.

David Schwab is a hydrodynamics expert with the Water Center.

“I don’t know any place where the currents are as strong, and change direction as quickly, and as frequently as in the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

At the Straits, it splits into two pipelines. Both pipelines are 63 years old (they were installed in 1953).

Right now, we don’t have all the information about the condition of those pipelines. As we’ve reported many times, Enbridge holds all the cards. The company has shared some information with the public, but not a lot.

Gary Peters
User: Gary Peters / Facebook

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D) has two big projects on his plate in an effort to strengthen protections for the Great Lakes and provide funding for the city of Flint in the wake of the water crisis.

The U.S. Senate recently gave unanimous approval to a funding bill that includes important protections for the Great Lakes. The bill re-authorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the federal agency that oversees pipelines.

mdprovost/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

There's been an ever-increasing drumbeat of alarm over the more than 62-year-old Enbridge Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac carrying some half a million barrels of oil or liquid natural gas.

Well, if pipelines built in 1953 have you worried, how about pipelines built in 1918?

The owner of the 98-year old pipelines has asked the State Department to update usage permits on the pipes that run under the St. Clair River between Marysville and Sarnia, Ontario. 

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Recently released information about the condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac shows some signs of corrosion. But company officials continue to say the twin pipelines running under Lake Michigan are safe.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An environmental group says oil pipelines running beneath the Mackinac Straits could be shut down without disrupting oil and propane supplies in Michigan.

Environmentalists say there is enough capacity on other pipelines skirting the Great Lakes to reroute the crude oil currently flowing through Line 5. 

The report says at least 90% of Line 5's oil goes to Canadian refineries, so it's not essential for the Marathon refinery in Detroit.

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

There are many Michiganders feeling uneasy about the idea of those 62-year-old twin oil pipelines running along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.

The aging Line 5 can carry 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids each day.

Enbridge has made promises to keep the pipeline maintained and said it’s got an emergency response team in place, but there’s a complicating factor that no one can control: big, turbulent waves.

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The two oil pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac are not unique.

The National Wildlife Federation says there are 5,110 locations across the United States where oil pipelines run through or under navigable waters.

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

There's been a lot of concern expressed about Enbridge's oil and liquid natural gas pipelines running under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

But Keith Matheny of the Detroit Free Press reports that an oil spill contingency specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard is more worried about the above-ground section of Line 5 running across the Upper Peninsula.

From Matheny's piece:

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 oil pipeline has lain deep under the water in the choppy Straits of Mackinac for more than 60 years. 

Over the decades, Line 5 has fed billions of barrels of light crude oil and liquefied natural gas into the lower peninsula of Michigan. 

Yet there has never been a drill to test the region’s readiness for a spill from a leak or rupture of the pipe. 

Until now, that is.

Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at how far oil might travel with a 12-hour release in the Straits of Mackinac.
UM Water Center

The scenario: Someone has spotted oil on Lake Michigan in the Straits of Mackinac. They place a call to an emergency response center.

What happens next?

Today, Enbridge and other emergency response officials will test whether their emergency oil spill response plan is effective.

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

Both U.S. senators from Michigan are spearheading legislation meant to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill.

Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow say the measures would ban shipping of crude oil on the lakes. That’s something that’s not happening now, the senators admit.

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 signed a deal with Enbridge Energy that heavy crude oil will not be shipped through a pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

But the agreement doesn’t change anything as far as protecting the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Line 5 wasn’t built to carry heavy crude oil and never has. 

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

In 2010, we were given a pretty good reason to care about how companies maintain the 3,280 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines crisscrossing our state.

Being the state that suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history has that effect.

So people perked up when they found out that Enbridge, the company responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill, owns another pipeline that travels under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

If Michigan has a “crown jewel,” this area might be it.

The Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The National Wildlife Federation says it’s making plans to sue the federal government.

The environmental group says the U.S. Department of Transportation is not enforcing a law that requires “worst-case” disaster plans for underwater pipelines to be on file.

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