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Transportation & Infrastructure

Coast Guard oil spill specialist says he's more concerned about the UP section of Line 5

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

There's been a lot of concern expressed about Enbridge's oil and natural gas liquids 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:

The 30-inch-diameter transmission line runs under at least 20 rivers and creeks that feed into northern Lake Michigan, and at points is within a half-mile of the lake. "Quite frankly, we see a spill in the straits as a very low probability," said Steven Keck, who's based at the Coast Guard's Sault Ste. Marie station. "But that corridor along U.S.-2 we see as a much higher probability. "We don't seem to get a lot of attention on that stretch between Manistique and St. Ignace, but it's still the Great Lakes."

We caught up with Keith Matheny today and spoke to him about his story.

Matheny points out that first responders in the Upper Peninsula would be the first on the scene should there be a spill from this section of Line 5. He says many UP communities struggle to keep their volunteer first responder departments in good shape.

"They really struggle with the size of their departments there to deal with things like fires, one can only imagine what [an emergency response] would be like on a spill," said Matheny.

In full disclosure, Enbridge is a financial supporter of Michigan Radio.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported Enbridge Line 5 transports liquid natural gas. That is not correct. It transports light crude and natural gas liquids.

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