Detroit Free Press
Sen. Gary Peters calls for shutdown of Line 5 oil pipeline because of damage
Todd Spangler, DFP April 13, 2018
(Photo: National Wildlife Federation)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., on Friday called on state and federal officials to at least temporarily shut down an oil and natural gas pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac after reports that it was damaged by an apparent anchor strike.
Peters talked with Coast Guard officials regarding the situation with Line 5 and said the pipeline should be shut until a visual inspection of the damage can be made.
“Based on the limited information currently available, two segments of the pipeline will require repairs in the short-term, but a visual inspection is still needed to assess the full extent of the damage,” Peters said.
“Upcoming blizzard conditions and high winds pose a threat to the already-damaged pipeline and, even worse, would render on-site cleanup equipment ineffective in the event of an oil spill. We simply cannot afford that kind of risk to Michigan’s most precious natural resource.”
Much of Michigan is expected to be hit by a snow and ice storm this weekend.
The Free Press reported this week that “vessel activity” believed to have damaged submerged electric cables running through the straits where lakes Michigan and Huron meet last week may also have caused three dents in Line 5.
Enbridge, a Canadian oil transport company that owns and operates the twin oil pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac, let the state know about the dents early this week and characterized them as “very small” and posing “no threat to the pipeline,” according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.
Peters sent his request to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said after Peters’ remarks that she agreed that Line 5 should be taken out of service “until we know it’s safe.”
Officials with PHMSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Free Press. An official with Michigan DEQ, Scott Schaefer, said his agency was focused on the leaking fluid from the power lines that were damaged and referred calls regarding the condition of Line 5 to the governor’s office.
Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for the governor, noted that Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has visited the site this week and was briefed by Coast Guard officials who “reported no immediate threat from Line 5.”
“The Coast Guard is in charge of the investigation and in command of the scene at this time. If we receive any information that indicates an immediate health or safety threat from this source of heat for the Upper Peninsula during the approaching winter storm, we will act accordingly,” Heaton said.
In a statement, Enbridge said it is aware of “the sensitive environment in which Line 5 operates.” The company said it is “closely monitoring weather conditions and forecasts in and around the Straits” and will temporarily shut down the pipeline “should the weather deteriorate to a point where we are concerned about the ability for our personnel to respond to an incident.”
Contact Todd Spangler at 703-854-8947 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.