Fact vs. Fiction over Line 5

Jan. 13, 2021

Mighty Mac bridge at the Straits of Mackinac

Enbridge: State should rely on science and evidence

In decisive fashion, Enbridge reaffirmed its commitment to transport through Line 5 the fuel to heat homes and provide energy to Michigan and the region.

Enbridge also outlined why Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s actions to terminate the 1953 easement agreement are unlawful and based on unspecified allegations. In doing so, Enbridge said it intends to continue to operate the dual pipelines and construct the Great Lakes Tunnel. 

Our dual pipelines in the Straits are safe, fit for service and in full compliance with the federal safety standards that govern them,” said Vern Yu, Enbridge Executive Vice President and President, Liquids Pipelines in a letter to Governor Whitmer dates January 12, 2021. “The November Notice ignores current scientific evidence in favor of inaccurate and outdated information.  It also glosses over the current healthy condition of the dual lines and instead focuses on events that were addressed many years ago.”

Going point-by-point, Enbridge’s letter shapes the reasoning as to why the State has no basis for termination or revocation of the current easement agreement, including:

Fact: Safety measures

The Notice pointedly ignores the many proactive safety measures Enbridge has implemented through the years, including additional measures in 2019 and 2020, which significantly reduce the risk of a vessel’s anchor striking the dual lines.  The State also seems to ignore findings in a report that Enbridge provided to the State in May 2020, as well as a subsequent safety analysis provided to the State in November 2020, instead focusing on a report from 2017.

Fact: Exercising due care in operating the dual lines

In line with its corporate responsibility and the provisions of the easement agreement, Enbridge continues to exercise due care to minimize risk of a release from an anchor strike.  In the last 67 years, there never has been a release into the Straits from the dual lines—due to an anchor strike or any other cause.

Fact: Spans

Enbridge is in full compliance with the span provisions of the easement agreement, as well as with agreements reached with the State in 2018 to maintain compliance with the span provisions.  In adherence to the easement, no spans on Line 5 exceed the 75-foot provision, yet the Notice focuses on historical span exceedances all remedied more than six years ago. 

Fact: Coating

Enbridge is in full compliance with the coating provisions of the easement agreement. The system to protect the dual lines from corrosion also fully is operational. Inspections conducted in 2019 and 2020 confirm that the coating and cathodic protection systems are working as intended and effectively protect the dual lines.

“Despite the facts, last year’s Notice seeks to revoke the easement agreement, in addition to seeking to terminate it,” said Yu. “We view both actions as legally baseless and believe our position will prevail in court.”

Enbridge has filed a complaint in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan, asserting that the actions of the State in issuing a Shutdown Order directed against Line 5 are in violation of federal law.

Yu, however, also reiterated that Enbridge believes it would be in the best interest of the region’s residents and businesses for the State to find an agreement that would achieve the State’s long-term goals rather than pursuing litigation.

“Although the State has not shown a willingness to confer with us on these matters since January 2019, we reiterate that we are prepared to have good-faith discussions,” Yu said.   “We would like to build on voluntary agreements we have reached in the past on matters such as span length and coating and to do so in the cooperative environment envisioned in the 2018 second agreement with the State.  This would give the State opportunity to be specific about its concerns, including where it believes problems exist in light of current facts and science, rather than focusing on the distant past.”

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.

Yu’s complete letter to Gov. Whitmer may be found here.