Enbridge Energy on Tuesday announced that it is defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and will continue to operate the Line Five Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.
The governor had ordered the pipeline to be shut down in May. She revoked a six-decades-old easement agreement between the State of Michigan and the Canadian oil company, sighting safety concerns.
The Enbridge press release follows:
Today Enbridge Inc. (TSX: ENB) (NYSE: ENB) (Enbridge or the company) responded to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to terminate an easement that has been in place since 1953 and thereby close Enbridge’s Line 5 dual pipelines located in that easement. Line 5 enables the safe transport of fuel to heat homes and provides energy to Michigan, neighboring U.S. states and Canada’s two largest provinces.
In a letter responding to the State’s November 13 notice, Vern Yu, Enbridge Executive Vice President and President, Liquids Pipelines, wrote, “Our dual lines in the Straits are safe and in full compliance with the federal pipeline safety standards that govern them.”
Both lines were reviewed and approved for operation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) back in June and September of 2020.
Mr. Yu further stated that Enbridge has no intention of shutting down the pipelines based on the State’s unspecified allegations and its violation of federal law.
The company has requested that the United States District Court dismiss the State of Michigan’s action in that 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 an expert federal agency (PHMSA).
“The Notice ignores scientific evidence and is based on inaccurate and outdated information,” Mr. Yu wrote of the State’s action.
Repeated offers by Enbridge over the past year to meet with State officials to discuss pipeline issues of concern to the State, provide technical information and discuss matters that might be helpful to the State’s review of the easement were consistently ignored and dismissed. Consequently, the State made its claim on ill-informed, inaccurate, out of date and unsupportable opinion.
In his letter, Mr. Yu wrote that the State acted unlawfully in issuing the Notice to revoke and terminate the 1953 easement by attempting to upend federal jurisdiction.
Enbridge’s response further underscores that the Governor and the DNR Director cannot disregard Michigan laws authorizing the original 1953 easement and the replacement tunnel, nor displace PHMSA, the federal agency responsible for the safety of interstate pipelines. The company, consistent with the past, is offering to meet with the State to resolve any differences.
“In the meantime, the dual pipelines will continue to operate safely until they are replaced on completion of the Tunnel Project,” wrote Vern Yu.
Residents, businesses and refineries throughout Michigan, other Great Lakes states and Canada’s two largest provinces – Ontario and Quebec – rely on the safe transportation of oil, propane and other product through the dual pipelines. Enbridge looks forward to continuing to provide this critical source of energy while focusing on plans to construct the Great Lakes Tunnel as another measure to enhance safe operation of the dual pipelines.
Meanwhile, eastern U.P. state representative John Damoose said the existing Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac must remain in operation until a state-of-the-art underground tunnel is built to replace it.
The pipeline delivers fuel needed to heat Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Damoose is fighting against Gov. Whitmer’s efforts to shut down the pipeline without a replacement.
“Line 5 is too important to Northern Michigan to just abandon without a ready replacement,” said Damoose, of Harbor Springs. “The fuel it delivers to our communities is needed to heat homes, schools and workplaces. You can’t simply shut down the pipeline and hope some immediate solution to heat Northern Michigan magically appears from nowhere.
“The fact is, a great long-term solution is already in the works – the building of a state-of-the-art underground tunnel. It’s a safe solution, paid for without taxpayer money. This new tunnel must be allowed to proceed, and the existing pipeline must continue to operate safely until it’s ready.”
Enbridge Energy, in a letter to Gov. Whitmer today, said she doesn’t have the authority to revoke its easement for Line 5 — and the dual lines are in full compliance with the federal safety standards that govern them. Damoose represents the 107th District in the Michigan House, including Emmet, Chippewa and Mackinac counties, and part of Cheboygan County.