The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger has given Enbridge 30 days to provide details regarding its ongoing violations of a state-granted easement that allows the company’s 66-year-old Line 5 oil pipelines to occupy the Straits of Mackinac.
Eichinger’s letter to Enbridge includes 20 questions to be answered by Feb. 12, 2020.
According to For Love of Water FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, the letter is an “appropriate step” to conclude the DNR’s review ordered by Governor Whitmer last June.
“It’s a welcome sign that Director Eichinger and his staff appear to be wrapping up their Line 5 investigation by asking for all other information and documentation that Enbridge has in its possession or control,” said Kelly Thayer, Deputy Director of FLOW (For Love of Water).
“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.”
The State of Michigan already has documented evidence on Line 5 of anchor strikes, exposed metal surfaces, and deep scouring of bottomlands that undermining the pipelines and even bending some of the newly installed supports. There also has been evidence of bending of Line 5 beyond curvature limits, Enbridge’s failure to provide proof of liability insurance and other financial assurances, and missing protective pipeline coating and delamination.
FLOW filed formal comments in mid-November 2019 to assist the State of Michigan’s Line 5 review, citing new and ongoing legal violations by Enbridge and rising risk to the Great Lakes, jobs, and drinking water.
In those Nov. 13 comments, FLOW called on the state to increase and strictly enforce the requirement for comprehensive oil spill insurance and terminate the 1953 easement that conditionally allows Line 5 to occupy the Straits of Mackinac, triggering the orderly shutdown of the dual oil pipelines as soon as practicable after securing alternative sources for residential propane in the Upper Peninsula (which a state task force is studying).
FLOW’s request followed a recent finding recent that Enbridge and its subsidiaries do not have adequate liability insurance for a potentially catastrophic oil spill from the Canadian company’s decaying dual pipelines, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron.
FLOW says that Enbridge is operating Line 5 illegally while the risk rises to the Great Lakes, jobs, and the drinking water supply for half of Michiganders.
Until Enbridge has applied for and obtains authorization under the rule of law or Line 5 is shut down, FLOW is pressing the state to impose immediate emergency measures that reduce the flow of oil in Line 5 to its original limit of 300,000 barrels per day (1 barrel = 42 U.S. gallons of oil).
Enbridge currently pumps 540,000 barrels a day through Line 5 in the Straits, which is 80% more than the original design approved by the State of Michigan.
If such authorization or shutdown occurs, FLOW said state officials also should implement more stringent requirements for a mandatory emergency shutdown.