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State pipeline safety board discusses mapping and new risk analysis

The Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

The state pipeline safety board met for the first time Monday since it was revealed that Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline had lost some of its coating.

The controversial pipeline sends oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac. The board was updated on the coating issue. But it’s waiting on a plan and repair schedule from Enbridge before deciding what to do next. 

The board did recommend state universities start a new study on the risks of the pipeline.

“I’m convinced that Michigan universities can put together a team to answer the questions but it’s going to be a very large task,” said Dr. Guy Meadows from Michigan Tech. A member of the pipeline safety board, Meadows will likely step down to head the study.

Meadows has previously worked for Enbridge, but board members say they’re confident Meadows, and the universities, will perform an independent study.

A prior risk analysis was scrapped after a conflict of interest emerged.

Environmental groups say the time for studies is over. Sean McBrearty is with Oil and Water Don’t Mix.

“We know that Line Five is much more dangerous even than previously anticipated,” he said. “So the time for them to recommend that the state shut down Line 5 is now.”

The board also started a plan to make it easier for people to see where Michigan’s pipelines are located. The board will send a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. It asks for permission to create a statewide map. That map would then be available online.

Right now, pipeline maps are only available on a county by county basis.

Valerie Brader is the director of the Michigan Agency for Energy and co-chair of the pipeline safety board.

“The mapping is to allow the public the opportunity to look and very easily find out what streams does this cross, what public lands does this cross, how close is this to my house, that sort of thing,” he said.

The federal government will have 90 days to respond to the request. 

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

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.

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
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