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Michigan officials request data from 1953 to present on Line 5 pipeline

A choppy surf crashes against the beach underneath the Mackinac Bridge.
Kaye LaFond
Michigan Radio
The director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has sent a letter to Enbridge asking for detailed information about the Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

The state of Michigan is asking Enbridge Energy for more information about its oil and natural gas liquids pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

The director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sent a letter this week to Enbridge, asking for detailed information about the more than 60-year-old Line 5. The director issued a 30-day deadline for Enbridge to provide the data.

The letter asks for data from 1953 to the present on anchor strikes on the pipeline – leaks, breaks and spills – and additional technical information about the pipeline.

The DNR says it's part of its review of the complany's compliance with the easement that allows the company to operate the easement. "The Great Lakes are Michigan’s signature natural resource, and protecting the lakes is a top priority for the DNR," said department spokesman Ed Golder. "The documents requested today from Enbridge will provide important information in the department’s continuing review of compliance with the 1953 Easement for Line 5."

An Enbridge spokesman says the company has received the letter and declined to comment on the request.

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.

Enbridge and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration are at odds over plans to build a tunnel to house a replacement section of the pipeline. The company says it is operating the pipeline safely and reliably. But Whitmer opposes plans to build a tunnel for a replacement section of the pipeline in the straits.

The Michigan-based water law non-profit For the Love of Water (FLOW) issued a statement in support of the DNR's letter.

At the conclusion of this process, these serious and continuing violations of the easement by Enbridge should trigger the state to shut down the dangerous dual Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes before it's too late, Kelly Thayer, Deputy Director of FLOW.

January 14, 2020 update:

One environmental group says the governor isn't moving fast enough.

Mike Shriberg directs the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.

"You've got crumbling infrastructure, you have a pipeline that was designed for 50 years, it's in year 67," Shriberg said. "It's been hit by anchors multiple times. We have a ticking time bomb."

He says Enbridge can't be trusted to self-report.

"I find it hard to believe that Enbridge is all of a sudden, going to be transparent and a good actor, when every bit of evidence in the past shows that Enbridge is not to be trusted with the Great Lakes," he added.

Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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