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Enbridge agrees to keep heavy crude out of pipeline – but deal doesn't really change anything

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

The state of Michigan has signed a deal with Enbridge Energy that heavy crude oil will not be shipped through a pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

But the agreement doesn’t change anything as far as protecting the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Line 5 wasn’t built to carry heavy crude oil and never has. 

“We are re-affirming our commitment that Line 5 is dedicated to the transport of natural gas liquids, not heavy crude,” said Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes. “If anyone has any questions that heavy crude will be in that line, this puts it to rest that there will not be any.”

But the agreement does allow state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder to say they’ve created another layer of protection for the Great Lakes.

Governor Snyder also created a pipeline safety advisory board by an executive order. Environmental groups say that simply delays tough decisions on protecting the Great Lakes from oil spills.

The agreement does not affect Enbridge Line 6, which does carry heavy crude and runs through southern Michigan.

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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