Enbridge finds "gaps" in Great Lakes pipeline protectors

Schuette calls for inspection, repair of Line 5

Schuette calls for inspection, repair of Line 5

LANSING, MI- The Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and the Michigan State Police expressed concerns Wednesday about new information confirming there are gaps in the protective coating on a portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, at least one of which was apparently caused during the installation of supportive pipe anchors.

At least one area of missing enamel coating appeared caused by the installation of required anchor supports on the pipelines - a timely revelation, as the state Department of Environmental Quality is now considering Enbridge's permit request to install 22 additional supports on the controversial, 64-year-old pipelines.

The mixed-use line transports 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas daily.

Critics of Line 5 say the potential is too great for an ecological and economic disaster on the Great Lakes and shoreline communities, should the aging pipelines burst under the Straits.

There is no visual evidence of corrosion or impact on the integrity of the pipelines, Duffy said.

"Enbridge should quickly fix the damaged pipeline covering to provide the extra protection", said Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security and a commander of the Michigan State Police. The company said that the fact that it found these uncoated sections underscores "the effectiveness of Enbridge's monitoring and maintenance program, which continues to exceed federal standards".

The new revelation drew criticism throughout state government. Valerie Brader of the Michigan Agency for Energy says it's a major concern that the gaps apparently resulted from human error.

Enbridge officials acknowledged in the summer of 2014 that some portions of the underwater lines had supports that were more than 75 feet apart - a violation of the requirements in Enbridge's 1953 easement from the state of MI allowing the pipelines. The spill devastated Talmadge Creek and surrounding wetlands and fouled about 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge previous year reached a $177-million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency over the spill, that included a $61 million penalty.

The sections display raw metal directly touching Great Lakes water without the original protective coating, said Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy.

"This recent finding raises concerns about the actions Enbridge is taking to protect the waters of the Great Lakes", said Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creigh. "Given their track record of negligence, we can't trust Enbridge Energy to give us the whole story, maintain the pipelines or ensure every possible safeguard against a catastrophic Great Lakes oil spill".

Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Melody Kindraka told Bloomberg BNA that while there is no immediate threat to safety, the damage shows that there would be further problems created by installing the anchors. "Until that happens, we as a state will not be satisfied".

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