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Enbridge to add steel supports to controversial Great Lakes oil pipeline

25 September 2019

Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Energy has received a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers to install 54 supports under its Line 5 oil pipeline which runs under the Straits of Mackinac between the lower and upper Michigan peninsulas.

Mackinac Straits Bridge - Image:
Mackinac Straits Bridge - Image:

The supports are designed to make the current pipeline more secure – in places it is 25 metres above the lakebed.

The straits connect two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and the State of Michigan is suing Enbridge to shut down the pipeline, claiming a leak would cause an environmental catastrophe.

Enbridge says it can safely operate the 66-year old pipeline while plans advance to replace the exposed section of Line 5 with a new section inside a tunnel under the lakebed. Under the previous Republican state administration, permission was given for the Canadian company to pursue the tunnel project, but the current Democrat administration wants the pipeline closed.

Enbridge is countersuing following the administration’s withdrawal from the agreement.

According to NPR Radio Michigan, another lawsuit has been filed by the National Wildlife Federation, claiming the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) approval of Enbridge's spill response plan was arbitrary and capricious. This case is currently before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Line 5 carries 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and propane and is a critical part of Enbridge’s Mainline network, which delivers the bulk of Canadian crude exports to the United States.

A company spokesman said Enbridge had been waiting 17 months for the permits and upon receiving them started work immediately. He said putting the pipeline in the tunnel, 100 feet below the lakebed, would eliminate any span issues and the need for supports.

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