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 six pages:

  • Page 1 begins with the July, 2016, controversy about falsified security reports, and continues through Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group’s January 12, 2017, adoption of its resolution supporting the Palisades shutdown.
  • Page 2 goes from mid-January, 2017, up to MPSC’s mid-February announcement that it would hold its first public hearing in the case on March 9.
  • Page 3 carries our Palisades Chronology to the end of March and the disclosure that Palisades may not be able to handle a tornado.
  • Page 4 runs from the beginning of April through June 9 – meeting reports, case updates.
  • Page 5 ends with the July 13 program that Bette Pierman organized with Chris Williams, who shared what he’s learned watching the decommissioning at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant.
  • Page 6 recaps a Palisades “Event Report” and the July 27 Open House, with more to come.
  • Page 7 goes from the August 17 report that Palisades fixed its tornado problem to a September 26 news release about MPSC’s ruling on Consumers’ PPA buyout plan.
  • Page 8 picks up on September 28 with the announcement that Palisades won’t close in October 2018 as previously announced.

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…

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.

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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