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Environmental group questions permit for 98-year-old pipelines under St. Clair River


There's been an ever-increasing drumbeat of alarm over the more than 62-year-old Enbridge Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac carrying some half a million barrels of oil or natural gas liquids.

Well, if pipelines built in 1953 have you worried, how about pipelines built in 1918?

The owner of the 98-year old pipelines has asked the State Department to update usage permits on the pipes that run under the St. Clair River between Marysville and Sarnia, Ontario. 

And that has triggered alarms for environmental groups like the Traverse City-based group FLOW (For Love of Water).

Environmental attorney Liz Kirkwood is the executive director of FLOW. She says the public comment time was not apparent until it was too late to comment. 

“We need to understand what is really behind it and what are the implications and risks of transporting crude oil under the St. Clair River.”

The Texas-based company called Plains All American Pipeline has owned the lines since 2012.

Kirkwood says the company has a bad safety record. She says the company spilled oil three separate times across the U.S. in 2015. On May 19, on the beach near Santa Barbara, California, 3,400 barrels were spilled.

“There were all sorts of assurances that the pipeline company was using state-of-the-art integrity management systems and PHMSA [Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] the federal agency and regulator recently determined that corrosion was the failure. So assurances are not enough."

Listen to the interview below to hear more about the request to update the usage permit and why groups like FLOW were unaware of the request. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported Enbridge Line 5 transports liquid natural gas. That is not correct. It transports light crude and natural gas liquids.

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