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Task force says Enbridge pipeline under Mackinac straits should keep operating

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Courtesy of Bill Schuette
Attorney General Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the days of an energy pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac are numbered. But, a task force led by Schuette does not recommend that day should come anytime soon.

“You wouldn’t site, and you wouldn’t build and construct pipelines underneath the straits today,” Schuette said at a news conference to roll out the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report. “And so, if you wouldn’t do it today, how many more tomorrows will the pipelines be operational?”

But the report does not set a date for shutting down Enbridge Pipeline 5, nor does it specifically suggest the pipeline should be shut down.

Dan Wyant directs the state Department of Environmental Quality. He says shutting down the pipeline would not mean an end to environmental risks to the state.

“We’ve seen instances of spills across the country,” he says. “We’ve seen derailments of rail cars. We’ve seen tanker trucks – uh, those are going to be issues for us.” 

Wyant and Schuette say it would take 30-50 lake tankers, 2,500 trucks, or 700 rail cars to transport the 500,000 barrels shipped daily via the Enbridge pipeline.

Wyant says his staff is researching whether the state has the staff to take over pipeline regulation from the federal government. That would require an agreement with the EPA.

The report also calls for a rule that would forbid Enbridge from using Pipeline 5 to transport tar sand petroleum, even though the pipeline was not built for that purpose, has never been used for tar sand, and Enbridge sent a letter to the state assuring there are no plans to ever use it for that. 

In full disclosure, Enbridge Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate underwriters.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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