Enbridge Will Not Close Line 5 Despite Revocation of Easement

Ontario-based Enbridge Inc., which owns and operates the Line 5 dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, says it will not close the pipelines, which transport fuel to Michigan, neighboring U.S. states, and Canada.
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Straits of Mackinac
Enbridge, which owns and operates the Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, says it refuses to close the pipelines despite an order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Natural Resources. // File photo

Ontario-based Enbridge Inc., which owns and operates the Line 5 dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, says it will not close the pipelines, which transport fuel to Michigan, neighboring U.S. states, and Canada.

Today’s announcement is in response to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s termination of an easement that has been in place since 1953, thereby closing the lines.

According to the State of Michigan, in April 2020, Enbridge filed an application for siting approval under Act 16 of 1929 to replace and relocate the segment of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac into a new tunnel it proposes to build under the lakebed. Following a commission order establishing a contested care hearing process to evaluate the application, Enbridge filed a motion seeking to limit the scope of the case in September.

The administrative law judge on Nov. 6 granted the motion in part and denied it in part, and parties in the case had filed appeals and responses.

On Nov. 13, Whitmer and the Department of Natural Resources revoked and terminated the 1953 easement under which Enbridge built and operated Line 5 in the straits and ordered the company to cease operations of the pipelines no later than May 13, 2021. Enbridge later challenged the revocation in federal court.

On Dec. 9, the Michigan Public Service Commission remanded a key issue in Enbridge Energy Ltd.’s application to relocate the Line 5 pipeline to a tunnel beneath the straits, citing Whitmer’s revocation as a significant development in the case that requires new legal briefings from parties in the case and an adjusted case schedule.

Enbridge sent a letter in response to the state’s Nov. 13 notice. Vern Yu, executive vice president and president, liquids pipelines, of Enbridge, wrote, “Our dual lines in the Straits are safe and in full compliance with federal pipeline safety standards that govern them.”

Both lines were reviewed and approved for operation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in June and September 2020.

Yu says Enbridge has no intention of shutting down the lines and has requested the United States District Court dismiss the State of Michigan’s action, saying the revocation of the easement is contrary to federal law and that pipeline safety resides with the federal Pipeline Safety Act and its enforcement is the responsibility of the administration.

The company is offering to meet with the state to resolve differences.

“In the meantime, the dual pipelines will continue to operate safely until they are replaced on completion of the Tunnel Project,” wrote Yu.

The lines transport oil, propane, and other products. Enbridge says it continues to focus on plans to construct the Great Lakes Tunnel, which is meant to soon house the lines.

Yu’s letter is available here.

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