Michigan Governor Announces Line 5 Agreement with Enbridge Inc.

Posted on November 29, 2017 by

On Monday, November 27, the Canadian corporation Enbridge Inc. inked a deal with the State of Michigan that will implement newly agreed-upon actions to move toward a long-term solution for the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline.

The agreement stipulates that Enbridge will:

  • Replace the portion of the pipeline that crosses beneath the St. Clair River
  • Cease flow in the portion of the pipeline under the Straits during “sustained adverse weather conditions,” defined as at least an hour of average waves higher than 8 feet
  • Undertake a new study, in conjunction with the state, on the feasibility of constructing a tunnel to contain a new section of pipeline beneath the lake bed of the Straits
  • Implement a variety of measures and technologies across the entirety of the pipeline meant to minimize the risk of spill at water crossings, including the possibility of a ship anchor strike in the Straits
  • Assess the possible installation of underwater technologies in the Straits to better monitor the pipeline, as well as to improve issue detection and response times

“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,” Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement. “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.”

The governor made clear that Monday’s agreement is not the final say on the future of the pipeline, which is still under review by the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board. A team of researchers at Michigan Technological University will prepare a separate risk analysis which— along with this new agreement, the finalized Alternatives Analysis, and public input—will inform a final recommendation from the state on the fate of Line 5.

At Freshwater Future, our mission is to protect all of the Great Lakes and inland waterways. As Michiganders evaluate the alternative methods of transporting Line 5 petroleum products, we must take care not to export serious spill risk elsewhere in the Great Lakes basin. If Line 5 is decommissioned, it will likely be replaced by one of the alternatives in the Alternatives Analysis, each of which have their own serious, inherent risks. Many of our criticisms of the draft Alternatives Analysis remain with the final version.

We join other community groups and organizations across the state in expressing concern that the governor’s unilateral agreement with Enbridge biases the final recommendation towards the proposed construction of a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. It is imperative that community voices are solicited and incorporated in all stages of decision making, that the final recommendation be in the best interest of Michigan residents, and that the spill risk is minimized for the entire Great Lakes basin.


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.