Michigan Pipeline News – Enbridge Line 5 and More

Michigan Pipeline News - Enbridge Line 5 and more

Enbridge pipeline spills in the Great Lakes region. Image: Oil and Water Don’t Mix

We’ve moved news about


Enbridge Line 5 and other Michigan pipeline issues from our News Page to the page you’re on now. The most recent reports are listed first. If you want to go back a few months and get caught up in chronological order, scroll to the bottom of the page and work your way back to the top.

News about Palisades has also moved. It now takes up several pages. Here’s Page 1.

For news from Southwest Michigan and around the State that’s not related to Palisades or pipelines, visit our main News Page.

Michigan Pipeline News –
Enbridge Line 5, Rover, NEXUS…

Rover Pipeline stalled again in Ohio. (January 24)

IndeOnline.com: FERC wants more information before Rover can resume boring beneath Tuscarawas River.

Chicago Sun-Times blasts Enbridge’s plan for Mackinac Straits section of Line 5. (January 19)

Sun-Times Editorial Board: New plan leaves Lake Michigan at risk for oil spill.

Enbridge Plans to replace Line 5 under St. Clair River. (January 19)

The Voice reports the replacement of the section of Line 5 under the St. Clair River was part of a surprise agreement the company signed with Gov. Rick Snyder on Nov. 27, 2017 — trumping three citizen feedback sessions that were about to take place on the final version of the Line 5 Alternatives Analysis, put together by independent contractor Dynamic Risk. The report studied the options available for moving the 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids flowing through Line 5. A second report on worst-case scenarios for oil spills in the Straits was postponed when the contractor turned out to have a conflict of interest with Enbridge.

U.S. Coast Guard could not handle a major oil spill in the Great Lakes. (December 15)

See Coast Guard Commandant November 15 testimony in the U.S. Senate. https://www.youtube.com/embed/XoSk9msZFx0

New deal apparently keeps Line 5 oil flowing. (December 7)

Governor Snyder betrays Michigan with foolish Line 5 deal. Read Jim Lively’s commentary in Bridge Magazine.

Section of Line 5 beneath St. Clair River to be replaced, and Enbridge will do another study. (November 27, December 3)

Detroit News: Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday announced a legal agreement with Enbridge requiring the Canadian company to replace a section of Line 5 among other safety precautions the energy company will be required to enact. Meanwhile, Andrew Heller says, “when government doesn’t want to do something about a problem…it studies it.”

Senators Peters and Stabenow express concern over Great Lake Asian Carp Invasion (November 20)

Senators Peters and Stabenow wrote a letter to Ryan Fisher, Acting Assistant Secretary, detailing concerns and asking questions regarding Asian carp invasion.

Line 5 contractor doubles down on risk analysis in final report. (November 20)

Those who took issue with the risk assessment portion of a draft report on Enbridge Line 5 released this summer by a state contractor aren’t likely to be thrilled by the conclusions in a final version of the controversial project. Read full article with links to the draft report and the final version at MLive.

Environmental groups sue to stop NEXUS. (November 14)

Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad), on behalf of the Sierra Club, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow construction of the fracked gas NEXUS pipeline. For more about the suit see Sierra Club Press Releases and what Detroit Free Press has to say about it.

Enbridge discloses more gaps in the Line 5’s protective coating. (November 14)

In more Line 5 news, Detroit Free Press reports for the second time in two months Gov. Rick Snyder called out Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge, this time after state agencies announced Monday that the company had revealed “dozens” of additional gaps in the protective outer coating that the state requires on Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

In an editorial in The Detroit News, Daniel Howes says, “The silence from Michigan business is deafening. The fresh water surrounding this peninsula…is a precious resource.” After what’s happened in Flint, says Howes, “You’d think Lansing would understand clearly this multifaceted threat to Michigan’s economy.” Listen to Daniel Howes’s commentary about Line 5 on Michigan Radio.

Included here is Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority Support for For Removal or Decommissioning of Enbridge Line 5 Resolution 01-28-16 A.

Enbridge told to make full accounting of Line 5’s condition to Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (November 13)

The State of Michigan today called on Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P., to give the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) a full accounting of the status of the Line 5 pipeline in light of new information released today by Enbridge that additional coating gaps were discovered during the company’s most recent inspection of the dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. http://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154–452205–,00.html

Senators Peters, Stabenow Call For Enbridge Investigation

U.S. Senators want answers concerning current conditions of Enbridge’s Line 5. Read the release quotes and full text of the Senators’ letters to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Enbridge Pipeline Inc. included in the article at UPMatters.com.

Enbridge knew a section of the required protective coating was damaged 3 years before reporting it. (October 27)

Valerie Brader, executive director of Michigan Agency on Energy and co-chair of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board stated, “Enbridge owes the people of Michigan, the Advisory Board and the State an apology. This issue is too important to the people of Michigan to not tell the truth in a timely manner, and right now any trust we had in Enbridge has been seriously eroded.” For more information see Detroit Free Press.

On its way to Michigan, NEXUS hits a snag in Oberlin, Ohio. (October 17)

The City of Oberlin, Ohio, a college town about halfway between Cleveland and Sandusky, has issued a press release reiterating its opposition to the NEXUS pipeline. The city has filed a lawsuit saying the pipeline plan violates an infrastructure ordinance passed in 2103 with more than 70% support. The suit also contends that the pipeline company’s eminent domain procedures violate Fifth Amendment protections. A September 22 report in The Oberlin News Tribune reported that Sierra Club has also filed a suit against the pipeline.

Michigan DEQ cites Rover builders for discharging gasoline into wetlands in Livingston County. (October 13 and 14)

On Tuesday, October 10, residents of Dexter Township east of Silver Lake near Pinkney in southern Livingston County told Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials about a gasoline odor near the ET Rover construction site. The Livingston Daily Press & Argus reported that on Friday, October 13, environmental officials cited the pipeline company for releasing gasoline into a wetland. An MLive report updated on Saturday, October 14, says local residents were upset at how long it took state officials to respond.

Sierra updates Line 5 battle. (October 12)

A feature article in the November/December issue of Sierra, Sierra Club’s national magazine, recaps Line 5’s history, the danger it poses, and the battle to eliminate the danger.

Fines keep mounting for Rover in Ohio. (September 20)

The Quincy, IL, Herald Whig, reporting from Toledo, OH, says that fines against Dallas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners now total $2.3 million for “numerous water and air pollution violations during construction of the $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline.”

Gaps in Line 5 protective coating are much larger than the “Band-Aid” size that Enbridge reported. (September 14)

On March 14, Enbridge officials told MLive that Line 5’s coating has failed in places but there are no patches of bare metal. In an August 30 MLive report, Enbridge said that Line 5 has two or three places where its protective coating is down to bare metal. (Enbridge calls these coating gaps “holidays.”) MLive’s August 30 report said:

One confirmed bare metal spot is on the west pipe leg, the other confirmed and suspect spots are on the east leg, [Enbridge spokesperson Ryan] Duffy said. One spot is “Band-Aid” sized, about three inches by a half inch.

On September 14, MLive published photos showing seven patches of bare metal. Many are “larger than dinner plates.” More from the September 14 report:

Also detailed in the reports is a “disturbed” coating area that’s more than 3 feet long, a “dislodged” coating area that’s 13 feet long and a mysterious 8-inch “white deposit” of unknown origin that Enbridge says “remains under investigation.”

New report says conflicts of interest flaw both Line 5 studies. (July 11, September 14)

Of the two Enbridge-funded year-long Line 5 studies – one analyzing risk, the other looking at alternatives – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette cancelled one two weeks ago. The risk analysis, said Schuette, was compromised due to conflicts of interest. A new investigation by DeSmog has disclosed that the analysis of Line 5 alternatives has the same flaw.

Update September 14: DeSmog confirmed that the “independent” study of Line 5 alternatives conducted by Dynamic Risk for the State of Michigan was flawed by conflict of interest of interest. DeSmog concludes:

In other words, contrary to Dynamic Risk’s claim that the company had ceased working for Enbridge upon commencing the independent Line 5 review for Michigan, the documents suggest the firm must have still been working on Line 3 after it had commenced its work on Line 5.

State of Michigan to Enbridge: “Repair…the pipeline’s coating.” (August 30)

The state government’s official website reports that DEQ, DNR, and the State Police “expressed concerns today about new information confirming there are gaps in the protective coating on a portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.” The State has called for immediate inspections of the coating, a report to DNR and DEQ, and repairs “within 30 days.”

Washtenaw County Road Commissioner asks FERC to say no to NEXUS. (August 11)

Washtenaw County Road Commission Managing Director Roy Townsend says NEXUS is ignoring safety concerns and engaging in “bullying tactics.” MLIve reports that Townsend isn’t trying to completely halt the project, but he wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny final approval of the 255-mile project until NEXUS shows “that it will in fact meet its obligations of real and good faith cooperation with WCRC and other state and local authorities.”

While NEXUS waited for federal appointments that would give FERC a quorum allowing it to rule on the project (see August 4 report below) NEXUS initiated a “pre-permit review process” with WCRC, but Townsend’s three-page letter to FERC says that NEXUS’s “actual willingness to recognize WCRC’s lawful exercise of its statutory duties has been spotty at best.”

The MLIve reports says:

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioner took a position against the NEXUS project last year, arguing it’s unnecessary and would have negative environmental, health and economic impacts. U.S. Rep. Dingell, D-Dearborn, also has raised concerns. […]

Townsend said Nexus continually invokes the doctrine of federal pre-emption to override local regulations, saying NEXUS overstates that authority and claims it can do whatever it wants.

While the Road Commission has relaxed certain standards to accommodate the project, some of the important requirements NEXUS has refused to honor include:

  • Won’t provide basic engineering plans.
  • Insists on driveway access at unsafe locations, without clearing vision obstructions.
  • Refuses to assure that roads will be repaired and cleaned up following construction work.

See also the news release from Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

Still no plan on Line 5 – not even a plan on how to develop a plan. (August 8)

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair David Holtz calls both of the year-long Line 5 studies “orphaned.” One was cancelled a week before it was to be made public. The other has come in for serious criticism from all angles. Even members of the study’s oversight panel, the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, have attacked the study that’s been released.

Holtz wondered what happens next, so he asked the Advisory Board’s co-chairs, Michigan Agency for Energy Director Valerie Brader and Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether. “Neither, it turns out, have a plan for how to complete the study process,” says Holtz’s August 8 report. “And there’s no framework or clearly identifiable path to reaching a decision on Line 5.”

Michigan Department of Natural Resources agrees that the Line 5 alternatives analysis was inadequate. (August 4, August 7)

A comment from the Michigan DNR on the Line 5 alternatives analysis was among the 22,000-plus comments that Oil and Water Don’t Mix says were submitted to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board. The Detroit News reported on the DNR comment:

“Overall – The discussions and inclusion of readily available environmental information is very limited,” the comment said. “There is limited to no discussion on effects to rare species, including state of federal listed threatened or endangered species. There is also limited to no information on the potential environmental effects associated with each alternative.”

The report added that the DNR comment “includes a long list of other details DNR officials found lacking.”

Update August 7: The DNR wasn’t the only Michigan agency pointing out flaws in the report. MLive named four more:

  • Department of Environmental Quality
  • Michigan Agency for Energy
  • Michigan Public Service Commission
  • Attorney General’s office

Dynamic Risk started its 2.8-million-dollar analysis, at Enbridge expense, more than a year ago. The final version is supposed to be submitted this fall. The public comment deadline was Friday, August 4.

FERC has a quorum now. NEXUS Pipeline plan can come up for final approval. (August 4)

The five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been limping along with only one commissioner since early this year. While the commission’s enforcement authority has remained intact (see FERC’s intervention in the Rover Pipeline problems) it’s had no authority to approve new projects. With two new appointments recently confirmed, the commission now has a three-member quorum. Marcellus Drilling News says FERC can now “begin issuing final approvals for important pipeline projects that are currently stalled waiting for an approval.” One of these projects is the NEXUS Pipeline that’s been in the works for about two and a half years. Its proposed route from eastern Ohio goes through southeast Michigan to Canada.

Rover pipeline construction causes M-50 collapse. (August 4)

The Adrian Daily Telegram website LenConnect reported that as Rover Pipeline workers burrowed a path for the pipeline beneath M-50 in Lenawee County, Michigan, the highway collapsed. MDOT said the pipeline company will pay for repairs. This is the same Rover Pipeline that had all kinds of trouble as it worked its way through Ohio on its way to Michigan, as reported by PBS and EcoWatch.

Federal legislators call on FERC to expand its investigation of Rover pipeline and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners. (July 27)

The ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expressing “serious concerns about Rover and ETP’s management of its holdings.” The letter cites a FERC investigation that turned up legal violations and misstatements. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., and Senator Maria Cantwell also point to 16 Ohio Environmental Protection Agency citations, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection order to “cease and desist construction,” and Pennsylvania officials shutting down another ETP project that caused water contamination. These and the problems FERC is already investigating prompted the legislators to request that FERC “expand its investigation” of the Rover pipeline that will go from eastern Ohio to Canada by way of southeast Michigan.

Two Rivers Coalition puts its weight behind the growing demand to close Line 5. (July 26)

Although based in Paw Paw, 300 Miles from the Straits of Mackinac, Two Rivers Coalition has joined the demand to eliminate Line 5’s threat to the Straits. Coalition President Kevin Haight spoke to Moody on the Market about the resulting catastrophe if the 64-year-old line were to break. “The enormous value of [the Pure Michigan] brand would evaporate in the first 30 seconds of video footage on the evening news showing Mackinac Island ferries stuck in a sea of crude oil.”

Line 5 is deformed. (July 23)

A section of Line 5 “several hundred feet” long “is bent in five places and ovalized twice” but Enbridge says the deformities are nothing to worry about, according to MLive’s report.

Five members of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board Issue a five-page attack on Dynamic Risk’s Line 5 alternatives analysis, and a Dow scientist releases his own “Analysis of Errors and Omissions.” (July 20)

Five of the sixteen PSAB members sent a letter to their fellow board members listing dozens of flaws they found in the Line 5 alternatives analysis conducted by Dynamic Risk. The five dissenters are:

  • Mike Shriberg, Ph.D., National Wildlife Federation
  • Jennifer McKay, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
  • R. Craig Hupp of R.C. Hupp Law
  • Guy Meadows, Ph.D., Michigan Technological University
  • Chris Shepler, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry Service

Their “significant concerns” fell into three broad categories:

  • Flaws in Study Approach/Methodology
  • Missing Information/Data Gaps
  • Other Considerations

Edward E. Timm, PhD, PE, staff scientist with For Love of Water (FLOW) and former Dow scientist, has released his own 25-page rebuttal to the report from Dynamic Risk.

Change in Rover pipeline route takes local residents by surprise, prompts call to halt construction. (June 7, July 1, 8, and 12)

Dexter Township, Michigan, residents were led to believe the Rover pipeline would follow a power line right-of-way. Instead, when they saw trees being cut down along Silver Lake, they learned that the pipeline would be close to their homes and near Silver Lake’s YMCA camp, about 12 miles northwest of Ann Arbor.

The Sun Times News of Chelsea, Michigan, reported that two organizations, which the report does not name, filed a motion on May 24 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commisson asking for suspension of all construction, revocation of the FERC certificate that allowed ET Rover to proceed, and further scrutiny of Rover’s adherence to federal environmental policy. The motion says the route change was “inadvertently permitted by FERC due to misleading name changes in Energy Transfer’s final documents.”

Meanwhile, according to the same report:

Michigan and Ohio environmental groups submitted a letter June 1 to the Army Corps of Engineers urging it to revoke the blanket authorization it gave Energy Transfer to proceed with horizontal directional drilling under 45 water crossings. Instead, the groups are asking the federal agency to require individual permits for each crossing.

The report does not name the groups that submitted the letter, nor does it say whether the letter is related to the Sliver Lake action.

Update July 1: An MLive report says Silver Lake residents spoke at a Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting. The Board, which has no jurisdiction in the matter, nevertheless adopted a resolution opposing the pipeline’s route.

More from the MLive report:

Residents said they’ve had a hard time getting their voices heard, and they argue there was a lack of opportunity for public input on the decision to go with the route closer to Silver Lake….

“We were not informed,” [Dexter Township resident Wendy] Zielen said. “We are in what is called by them the ‘buffer corridor.’ That’s when you’re alive. If there’s a pipeline emergency, that becomes the blast zone. That’s when you’re dead.”

Update July 8: A hundred residents from the Silver Lake area gathered on July 7 for a march against the Rover pipeline, says a new report from MLive. Native Americans who stood with the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access pipeline joined the Silver Lake protesters. The group marched from the YMCA’s Camp Birkett to the Rover construction site chanting, “Over with Rover! Over with Rover!” MLive reported that the YMCA “is concerned the pipeline will come dangerously close to the camp, putting the camp’s staff and children in the blast zone if there’s ever an explosion.” The construction site is “a stone’s throw from the summer camp,” said MLive.

Update: July 12: Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have asked for “a temporary halt” in Rover pipeline work near Silver Lake, northwest of Ann Arbor. The Senators’ letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cites misleading and confusing information about the pipeline’s route, which led to unanticipated safety issues. The letter asks for a delay “to reconsider the proposed route.” MDEQ has denied the request, says MLive.

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