91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Public meetings start over new report on Enbridge’s Line 5

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
A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.

New public meetings began Thursday about the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline.

Several state agencies and the authors of a report suggesting alternatives to the pipeline gave a presentation and took questions. 

The pipeline sends oil and natural gas across sections of lower and upper Michigan, and runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

A report created by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. was released earlier this week. It gives six options for dealing with the decades-old pipeline.

Protestors, who gathered ahead of the meeting, said there’s only one option: Shut it down.

“Is not serving the public but is endangering drinking water for millions of people,” said Jessica Fujan of Food and Water Watch. “We want to see Line 5 shut down and a transition to 100 percent renewable energy.”

David Holtz is chair of the Michigan Sierra Club, an environmental organization.


“You know the reality is that Line 5 is going to be decommissioned,” he said. “It’s either going to happen before there’s a rupture, or after.”

Before opening the floor to questions, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. gave a dense presentation on the report.

James Mihell is the chief engineer at Dynamic Risk Assessment. He said, contrary to what a lot of people say, corrosion isn’t the biggest threat to the pipeline.

Mihell said a dominant threat is something more random and unrelated to the line’s age: ship anchors. Ships could drop and drag their anchors over the line.

“The threat is that we can get a pipeline lodged in-between the flukes and the shank,” Mihell said. “And the fact of the matter is that you can’t stop an 80,000-ton cargo vessel with a 20 inch pipeline.”

Some options mentioned in the report include rerouting the line, installing new pipes in tunnels or trenches, closing the line, and leaving the line as it is.

But it does not give any recommendation about what option the state should take.

After nearly two hours of presentation by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Fujan was still frustrated.

“Months of analysis and thousands of pages of reporting make me believe that there should have been some conclusive and decisive actions to come out of this study and I don’t feel like we’re walking away with that today,” she said.

The state was also supposed to get a separate risk analysis report. That contract was terminated after a conflict of interest was discovered with the firm that was hired.

Enbridge Energy sent out a statement in response to the report and presentation. It says:

The report by Dynamic Risk represents thoughtful, thorough, and expert consideration of key issues around Line 5’s construction and condition, as well as the safety, feasibility and cost of alternative methods to transport energy to the Great Lakes region. While there are some conclusions that require further review, overall the report is comprehensive.

In full disclosure, Enbridge is a financial supporter of Michigan Radio.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
Related Content