Enbridge and State come to agreement on Line 5

Graphic explaining the seven key actions outlined in the agreement.

LANSING — Enbridge has officially entered an agreement with the State of Michigan regarding Line 5, according to a statement released by the company.

The agreement, entered on November 27th, increases collaboration and coordination between the State and Enbridge. The agreement highlights seven key actions that are designed to drive down risk and to further protect the waters of the Great Lakes while informing the State and the public about each step.

The seven key actions are as follows:

  1. By June 2018, we will have evaluated three options for the eventual replacement of the dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. The options that we will evaluate with the State include: placing a new pipeline in a tunnel under the Straits; installing a new pipeline below the lakebed of the Straits using horizontal directional drilling (HDD); and, creating a trench on the bottom of the Great Lakes and placing a new pipeline in a secondary containment structure or system.
  2. Temporarily shut down the operation of Line 5 when adverse weather conditions create  sustained waves higher than eight feet in the Straits
  3. Put into place additional safety measures to further mitigate a potential anchor strike from boats in the Straits
  4. By June 2018, evaluate additional state-of-the-art tools and underwater technologies that could help further inspect and maintain Line 5 in the Straits and assess the condition of the coating on the twin pipelines
  5. Work with the State on plans to enhance safety and reduce the potential impacts at other Line 5 water crossings
  6. Replace the Line 5 St. Clair River crossing as soon as we receive the necessary federal and state approvals. The new pipe will be installed underneath the river bed using HDD; and,
  7. Increase coordination with the State regarding the operations, maintenance and future of Line 5 and promote transparency between Enbridge and the State of Michigan. State representatives will have access to our data, studies, and will collaborate with us every step of the way.

The statement also issued an apology on behalf of Enbridge. It says:

From an engineering and operational perspective, on-going inspections and studies show that Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac remains in good shape and is fit for service. We realize our internal technical studies and understanding haven’t translated well into reassuring the public or Michigan leaders about the ongoing safe operation of Line 5. We apologize if our actions sometimes have created confusion.

Many Michiganders have joined Governor Snyder in expressing, with increasing frequency, concerns regarding the safety of Line 5 in the Straits.  Enbridge not only is hearing those concerns, we are listening. Most important, we are taking actions to address these concerns.

We hope the agreement is a step in a positive direction to demonstrate our commitment to doing the right thing to serve Michigan and protect the waters of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a treasure that must be preserved now and for future generations.  

Trust is earned, and while we have a long way to go, we remain committed to doing what it takes to rebuild trust and uphold our pledge to protect the environment while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs. 

We appreciate the emphasis that Governor Snyder, other state leaders and the public place on the stewardship responsibilities that come with being part of the Great Lakes community. We also will do our part with increased responsiveness by taking meaningful, concrete actions.

This agreement does not represent a final decision by the state regarding Line 5, but instead provides a clear schedule on which a decision will either be reached cooperatively with Enbridge or the state will take another path, according to a statement released by Governor Snyder.

“Business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable and we are going to ensure the highest level of environmental safety standards are implemented to protect one of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources,” said Snyder. “The items required in this agreement are good strides forward. The state is evaluating the entire span of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline and its future, but we cannot wait for the analyses to be completed before taking action to defend our waterways.”

“This agreement is necessary to ensure increased oversight, transparency and accountability on the part of Enbridge,” added DNR Director Keith Creagh. “As we continue to evaluate the pipeline at the straits, we must make sure appropriate safeguards for natural resources are in place along the full length of Line 5 in Michigan.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released a statement in response to the agreement saying “Today’s announcement is a good step forward toward fulfilling our responsibilities to protect the Great Lakes and the health of Michigan citizens.”

The full agreement can be found on the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board website.