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Michigan seeks extensive records from Enbridge Inc. about underwater oil pipes

Posted: 11:26 PM, Jan 13, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-14 06:10:00-05
Michigan Legislature passes Straits oil pipeline legislation

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan officials demanded an extensive set of records Monday from Enbridge Inc. in an investigation of the company's oil pipeline that runs beneath a channel linking two of the Great Lakes.

In a letter to the Canadian company, the state Department of Natural Resources requested documents dating back to 1953, when two 20-inch pipelines were placed across the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.

They are part of Line 5, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids used in propane from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario. The straits connect Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last June ordered a review of Enbridge's compliance with an easement that set conditions for the company to place the pipelines on the Great Lakes bottomlands.

The Democratic governor, who has echoed environmentalists' concerns that the pipes are unsafe and could leak, said violations of the easement could justify an order to shut down the line.

"The documents requested today from Enbridge will provide important information in the department's continuing review" of the company's performance, said Ed Golder, spokesman for the natural resources department.

The Canadian company, based in Calgary, Alberta, issued a statement saying it had received the information request. Spokesman Michael Barnes said the company had no comment on how it would respond.

The underwater pipeline segment "has been operating safely and reliably since it was constructed more than 60 years ago," Enbridge said.

In the letter, natural resources director Daniel Eichinger asked Enbridge to provide all company letters, emails, reports and other materials involving any spills or leaks from Line 5.

He also requested documents involving gaps that have appeared beneath the pipelines and damage to the pipes' outer coating, as well as curves that might have formed in the piping and strikes by ship anchors or other objects.

The pipes were dented by an anchor dropped by a tugboat in April 2018, although Enbridge said they remained intact.

For Love of Water, an environmental group, praised the state's request for company records and urged the state to terminate the easement.

"Ït's clear that Line 5's original design in the Straits is failing, as the powerful currents scour the public bottomlands and undermine the pipelines placed there in 1953," said Jim Olson, the group's president.

Enbridge released the below statement.

"Enbridge has received the State of Michigan’s information request. Line 5, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac, has been operating safely and reliably since it was constructed more than 60 years ago. The pipeline is an essential part of Michigan’s energy infrastructure system, helping Michiganders heat their homes and powering business across the State and region. We are committed to making a safe pipeline even safer by investing $500 million in the construction of a tunnel under the Straits to house the pipeline – thereby further protecting the waters of the Great Lakes and everyone who uses them."