oil pipeline

Enbridge Line 5 runs from Superior, WI to Sarnia Ontario. One Coast Guard official says the UP section of the pipeline worries him most.

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Enbridge Energy and the federal government in a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club over a pipeline running through Michigan state forest land.

According to the Sierra Club, Enbridge ought to have been required to carry out a full environmental impact analysis for the pipeline in 2014 when it took out a new permit. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

  MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) - Environmental activists are planning events during the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk to call attention to a number of issues, including a controversial oil pipeline in the area.

A group called We Protect Mother Earth says its protest will feature speeches and a drumming ceremony. It will begin around 9 a.m. Monday at the St. Ignace Welcome Center on the north side of the bridge, where thousands of people will be taking part in the annual holiday walk.

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

Five years ago today, an oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan split open, starting the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The heavy tar sands oil came from Enbridge Energy's pipeline 6B. The oil flowed into Talmadge Creek and then into the Kalamazoo River.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

People in Michigan are naturally concerned about the thousands of miles of pipelines crisscrossing the state. After all, Michigan suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.  

And there's one pipeline in particular that people are quite concerned about: Enbridge's Line 5 moves more than 500,000 barrels of oil and other liquid petroleum products (like propane) a day under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

Pipeline being installed by Enbridge in Michigan. Now Wolverine Oil Company is proposing a new pipeline.
Rina Miller / Michigan Radio

Growing demand for oil means Metro Detroit could be getting a new pipeline. And some residents aren’t happy about that.

The Wolverine Pipeline Company wants to install 35 new miles of pipeline next to its already-existing pipeline between Washtenaw and Wayne Counties. It runs from Romulus to Freedom Township.

State House bill 4540 would exempt information regarding energy infrastructure from Michigan's Freedom of Information Act.
user toffehoff / flickr


A bill just introduced in the State House would draw a veil over information about oil and gas pipelines, electrical lines and other key pieces of energy infrastructure.

Under House Bill 4540, backed by State Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, that information would be exempt from the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, making it no longer available to the public.

On the Kalamazoo River just downstream from the confluence of Talmadge Creek. Around 1 million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the river in 2010.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Today, the state of Michigan announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy over the largest inland oil spill in American history.

The state’s $75 million consent judgment with Enbridge won’t be coming as a huge cash payment. Most of the money has already gone to, or will be going to river restoration or recreation projects along the Kalamazoo River.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An environmental activist learns tomorrow if he’ll spend time in jail for a protest that had him spend time in an unfinished pipeline. 

Christopher Wahmhoff spent 10 hours in a pipeline in June 2013.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING (AP) - Democratic lawmakers are proposing increased state oversight of Michigan's oil and gas pipelines.

  The four-bill package announced this week would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to regularly inspect pipelines under the Great Lakes and mandate that pipeline operators submit emergency response plans to state regulators.

  Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor says he's thankful aging lines beneath the Straits of Mackinac haven't leaked. But he says more oversight is needed to "ensure Michigan's economy and natural resources are protected."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate votes tonight on a bill to authorize the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved legislation to authorize the pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from the Canadian prairie to the Gulf of Mexico through the American heartland.   

One group in Michigan is paying close attention to the vote.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Oil is flowing through Enbridge’s new pipeline in southern Michigan, but people who live along the pipeline say the job isn’t done yet.

Enbridge’s new Line 6B pipeline is in the ground and in service.  It runs for 285 miles across the state from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan.

The company installed this new pipeline after their old pipeline burst and caused a massive oil spill in 2010.

To replace it, they had to cut down trees and tear up people’s land. Enbridge has hired contractors to restore those properties in phases.

But some landowners in the first phase of the project say they’re still waiting for work to be wrapped up.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Michigan Radio's MI Curious project puts our journalists to work for you: We investigate questions you submit about our state and its people.

One of the MI Curious questions was submitted by listener Justin Cross from Delton, Michigan. He asked: "What's the status of the Enbridge pipeline in the bottom of Lake Michigan running through the Straits of Mackinac?"

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush has been working to find an answer to the question. Brush says what he found is that Enbridge holds all the cards. The company is willing to talk, and they are aware of people's concerns. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Radio's M I Curious is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Justin Cross asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It wasn’t the real thing, but federal and state agencies joined with local groups to respond to a mock oil spill in northern Michigan today.

“That boom is to keep out any oil from coming on this side,” one of the coordinators told reporters, as he pointed at crews lowering pillow-like yellow floaters into the Indian River. 

The booms were deployed just downstream from where an oil pipeline has sprung a make-believe leak.  A short distance away, officials from a variety of agencies manned a full command center, organizing the response in the mock disaster drill. 

Enbridge Energy oil spill
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. But there’s another company working to bring more tar sands oil into the U.S.

Enbridge Energy wants to increase the amount of heavy crude oil crossing the border from the Alberta tar sands into the Great Lakes region.

Lorraine Little is with Enbridge. She says Enbridge wants to move more oil on its pipeline known as the Alberta Clipper. That pipeline runs about a thousand miles from northern Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

“Its purpose is to carry heavy crude oil from the oil sands in Alberta into our Superior terminal where then it can get off on other pipelines and serve refining markets around the Midwest region or other parts of the country,” she says.

Back in November of 2012, Enbridge filed an application with the U.S. State Department. The company wants to raise the capacity of the border segment of the Alberta Clipper pipeline to 800,000 barrels per day (they're currently transporting 450,000 barrels per day).

That permit is still under review.

A section of new pipeline for Enbridge's line 6B.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

"Here we go again."

That's what some in Michigan are undoubtedly thinking as they learn of a proposed natural gas pipeline that could run through Michigan on its way to Ontario, Canada.

The proposed Rover Pipeline would carry natural gas through about 180 miles of Michigan. Some of it would track the very same route as the controversial Enbridge 6B oil pipeline that was recently replaced.

Keith Metheny is a reporter with the Detroit Free Press.

Metheny said the pipes will take natural gas from areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio and ship it westward into Michigan, through the southeast corner, spanning through six counties, and ending up in a hub in Ontario for distribution. The pipeline might follow a portion of the 6B route, around Oakland, Macomb, and St. Clair counties and possibly others.

“It’s going to be the very same people, the very same route, the people who saw their backyards torn up for a year, the people who occasionally had their roads inaccessible,” Metheny said.

Metheny said this pipeline would be large, 42 inches in diameter that will transfer more than 3 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

“In the highest gas demand day ever for Consumers Energy, which was in January 2013, they pushed out less natural gas across the entire state of Michigan than the amount that would pass through this pipeline every day,” Metheny said.

He added that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will determine if the pipes go down, but a decision may not be made until 2015.

Energy Transfer will hold a series of public meetings along the path of the proposed Rover Pipeline.

There will be a meeting this evening in Chelsea at 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Comfort Inn Village Conference Center on Commerce Park Drive in Chelsea. And there's a meeting tonight in Richmond at the Lois Wagner Memorial Library, again, from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm.

*Listen to full story above. 

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

A new government task force has been created to review the safety of Michigan's pipelines.

DEQ Director Dan Wyant and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will co-chair.

Formal oversight for interstate gas and oil pipelines comes from the federal government, but states are not required to do their own management.

Carl Weimer is executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. He said Michigan needs state oversight of its increasing number of pipelines.


The two sides of the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline are stepping up their campaigns.

For six years, the Obama administration has been reviewing the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil south from the Canadian border to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By the end of the month, Enbridge’s new oil pipeline through Michigan may be in operation.

Enbridge has built a nearly 300 mile pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Ortonville, Michigan.

The pipeline will eventually transport 500,000 barrels of oil a day or about twice as much as the pipeline it’s replacing.

The old pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling about a million gallons of Canadian Tar Sands Oil. The cleanup of the Kalamazoo River continues.

Randy Knauf / Creative Commons

A new state law encourages oil companies to go back to oil wells that are considered tapped out and extract more oil.

So-called “enhanced recovery projects” are relatively new in Michigan. In fact, there’s only one company that’s using the technique.

The process recycles carbon dioxide that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere and pumps it down into existing oil wells. The pressure forces more oil to the surface. Proponents say the process makes better use of existing oil wells because the oil couldn’t be recovered without the technique.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A judge has sentenced a trio of environmental activists to probation for their role in an oil pipeline protest near Stockbridge last July.

The protesters attached themselves to heavy equipment at the Enbridge pipeline work site.  They were convicted of trespassing and obstruction in January. 

The protesters could have faced up to two years in prison.

Protester Vicci Hamlin says she remains committed to the fight against Canadian tar sands oil. 

“I think that the more people that risk going to jail the more that things will change,” says Hamlin.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A trio of environmental activists will find out this week whether they will face prison time for a 2013 protest.

The three women were convicted in January of trespassing and obstruction charges. They and a fourth member of the group Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands attached themselves to heavy machinery to protest the installation of a new oil pipeline near Stockbridge.

The four did not detach themselves after being ordered to by law enforcement officers during the 2013 incident.

Working on the broken oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An Ingham County jury today convicted a trio of environmentalists on charges related to a 2013 protest. 

Last July, the protesters attached themselves to equipment at an Enbridge oil pipeline construction site near Stockbridge.  The protesters are opposed to the shipment of Canadian tar sands oil through Michigan.

They were charged with trespassing and obstruction after staying put after officers told them to leave.   

Dave Gallagher / Courtesy photo

Federal regulators are overseeing the installation of an oil pipeline after an accident last week near Ceresco.

It’s hard for Dave Gallagher not to watch the work. The pipeline is going in just 12 feet behind his house.

“Yeah they’re really scrutinizing that pipe now. There’s like 10 people down there,” Gallagher said, watching from his back porch Wednesday afternoon.

Mackinac Bridge
Julie Falk / Flickr

Emergency unemployment benefits and senatorial "jitters" over an Enbridge oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac: Both are issues consuming attention from Michigan's congressional delegation.

More than a week ago, a federal unemployment benefits program expired, leaving 1.3 million jobless Americans without aid. Some 45,000 of them are here in Michigan.

The program is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. In Michigan, the EUC added 36 more weeks to the state's regular 20 weeks of benefits.

On Capitol Hill today, Democrats are trying to pressure House Republicans to extend the program for three more months.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to ease concerns over an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Detroit Free Press Washington reporter Todd Spangler joins us now to tell us more about these issues.

Listen to the full interview above.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

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.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new oil pipeline is going underground in Michigan.

Enbridge Energy says this new pipeline will be bigger (36 inches vs. 30 inches) - it will pump more oil to the Marathon refinery in Detroit - and they say the pipeline will be safer. (The map in the slideshow above shows where the new line is going in.)

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It now appears even less likely Enbridge Energy will meet a federal deadline to dredge oil from the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup is related to the company’s 2010 pipeline spill.

Enbridge wanted special permission from Comstock Township to build a dredge pad, a place to process the waste and truck it to a nearby landfill.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It appears less likely that Enbridge will meet a federal deadline to dredge some of the oil that remains at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. The oil is left over from the company’s spill three years ago.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants the work done by the end of this year. They say the work will remove 12,000 – 18,000 gallons of “recoverable oil”.

Enbridge needs to get several permits from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality to do the dredging work in five locations.