Energy firm Enbridge Inc. is asking a court to review whether agreements it reached on Line 5 with Michigan under the previous governor’s administration are valid. The announcement comes amid renewed calls to shut down the pipeline after a report from the National Transportation Safety Board found human and mechanical error caused an anchor to strike Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac last spring.
The federal agency’s report found crew members of the tug and barge Clyde S. VanEnkevort/Erie Trader failed to secure the barge’s starboard anchor, as well as issues with an anchor brake band. The NTSB said that likely caused the damage to American Transmission Company’s transmission lines and Enbridge’s Line 5. The anchor strike caused around 800 gallons of dielectric mineral oil to leak from the transmission lines while the damage to Line 5 was superficial.
Yet, Enbridge opponents say the findings highlight the risk of a potential spill in the Great Lakes and called for action to prevent a potential release from its aging Line 5. The dual pipelines running under the Straits carry around 540,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids and crude oil from Superior to Sarnia, Ontario.
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In a statement Thursday, Enbridge said it’s asking the Michigan Court of Claims to rule on whether agreements reached with former republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration hold up. The company said Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration wants Line 5 to be shut down within two years, which wouldn’t be enough time for Enbridge to finish its proposed $500 million tunnel to house a new pipeline.
“We are taking this action in order to protect Michigan consumers. We require a court review of the enforceability in order to remove obstacles to building the tunnel as quickly as possible and ensure energy security and environmental protection for Michigan,” said Guy Jarvis, executive vice president of liquid pipelines for Enbridge in a release.
The state’s Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel ruled earlier this year that legislation allowing the company to construct the $500 million tunnel was unconstitutional.
Whitmer’s office provided the following statement on Thursday:
“The governor remains committed to protecting the Great Lakes and getting Line 5 out of the water as quickly as possible. This Tuesday, Enbridge walked away from the negotiating table with the governor, and has now chosen to pursue litigation rather than negotiate in good faith to find a reasonable solution that includes a date certain for decommissioning Line 5. It is now abundantly clear that Enbridge — which is responsible for the largest inland oil spill in American history in Marshall, Michigan — is only interested in protecting its bottom line. Yesterday’s report from the NTSB only highlights the fact that the dual pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac are a sitting duck, and there is nothing Enbridge can do to prevent the risk of a 12,000-lb anchor strike from rupturing the pipelines. Going forward, the governor will continue working with experts to ensure Michigan’s energy security, to preserve the Great Lakes, and to protect Michigan’s economy.”
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