Attorney General Schuette puts Enbridge Pipeline on notice

The company that owns a 61-year-old oil pipeline running through the bottom of the Mackinac Straits has been put on notice by Michigan’s Attorney General.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Dan Wyant sent a formal notice to Enbridge today, addressing the requirement to install additional anchors for two oil pipelines. The State’s formal notice to Enbridge Energy and Enbridge Pipelines, L.L.C. follows Schuette and Wyant’s formal request for information from the companies in April.

Both Schuette and Wyant are the co-chairs of the recently formed Michigan Petroleum Task Force, which aims to examine issues with the pipeline more closely. Formal oversight for interstate gas and oil pipelines comes from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. But the vast network of lines transporting petroleum products over and under Michigan has the potential to impact the State’s environment and communities.

The notice sent today responds to Enbridge’s acknowledgement that it is currently not in compliance with their agreement with the State of Michigan, which limits the maximum span or length of unsupported pipe in Enbridge’s pipelines in the Mackinac Straits.

“We have a responsibility to mitigate any risk of serious harm to our Great Lakes,” said Schuette.  “If we see evidence that something isn’t quite right with the infrastructure that lies beneath them, we’re going to address it with every tool available.  We will insist that Enbridge fully comply with the conditions of the Straits Pipeline Easement to protect our precious environmental and economic resources and limit the risk of disaster threatening our waters.

“The Great Lakes are our greatest natural resource assets, and we must do all we can to protect them,” Wyant said. “Installing additional pipeline supports means additional protection, and we look forward to Enbridge completing this work quickly.”

The letter signed by Schuette and Wyant on behalf of the State addresses the easement agreement with the State of Michigan that allowed the construction and operation of the Enbridge Straits Pipelines in 1953. The agreement requires pipeline supports at least every 75 feet to ensure the stability of the pipelines running along the lake bed. Enbridge recently acknowledged in their June response to an information request from Schuette and Wyant that some portions of the pipelines do not meet that requirement. The company noted it intends to install additional supports this year so that they would be spaced an average of 50 feet apart.

On June 27, 2014, Enbridge responded to the State’s request for following information:

•  Pipeline Life Expectancy: Details on the construction, modification, and estimated life expectancy of the pipelines, as well as any anticipated replacement plans.
•  Pipeline Use: Existing and potential uses for the pipelines in the future.
•  Preventive Maintenance and Leak Prevention:* Pipeline inspection processes and mechanisms for leak prevention, detection and control.
•  Spill Response Plans: Company response plans in the event of a leak or spill.

That response is still under review.