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Enbridge finds 'significant' damage to anchor support on Line 5, briefly shuts down

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

Enbridge had temporarily shut down Line 5 after discovering significant damage to an anchor support on one of the dual pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac. The company notified the state about the damage on Thursday, according to a statement from the governor's office. The source of the damage is currently unclear.

Update: Saturday, June 20, 9:49 pm

Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent another letter to Enbridge CEO Al Monaco, requesting that Enbridge immediately shut down Line 5 until damage is investigated, assessed and preventative measures are put in place. 

“Given the gravity of this matter, I was taken aback to learn the company has unilaterally resumed operation of the west leg without even opportunity for discussion,” said Governor Whitmer. “At this moment, Enbridge is pumping crude through the Great Lakes on state-owned bottomlands without any explanation for the cause of this damage to the pipeline structure and no assurance that Enbridge has taken sufficient steps to mitigate future harm. This disregard for the safety and well-being of our Great Lakes, and Enbridge’s due care obligations under the 1953 Easement, is unacceptable,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also asked Enbridge for a full report as to the cause of this damage and what measures Enbridge will put in place to prevent this from happening again.

The east leg of the pipeline remains shut down as Enbridge continues to gather more information. 

Update: Friday, June 19 9:04 p.m. 

In an interview with Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek, Mike Shriberg with the National Wildlife Federation said this latest revelation should be the end of the line for Line 5.

“We’ve seen a pattern of damage, we've seen a pattern of misinformation, and we’ve seen enough of a pattern of problems, that I don’t believe, and nor does the National Wildlife Federation, that Line 5 should still be operating in the Straits of Mackinac,” said Shriberg.

Shriberg said Governor Gretchen Whitmer should revoke Enbridge’s easement through the Straits.

“The lever of power is held directly by the governor. And this latest episode shows that it’s time for her to take action,” he said.

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said in a statement the company will provide the information the governor has requested. Here is the full statement:

As part of Enbridge’s seasonal maintenance work on Line 5 in the Straits we have discovered a screw anchor support that has shifted from its original position. This is an issue affecting that anchor support and not the pipeline itself. The support, installed in 2018, is on the east leg of the pipeline. We immediately shut down the Line as a precaution and are inspecting the area with divers and the entire pipeline with remotely operated vehicles. We were transparent in notifying the State of Michigan and our federal regulator PHMSA on Thursday, the same day we discovered the damage to the screw anchor support assembly. We will be providing the information the Governor has requested.

Original post: Friday, June 19 6:57 p.m.

The new damage is about 150 feet from an area where damage to the pipeline coating was discovered on or around May 26. The governor's office says Enbridge is trying to learn more about the damage through the use of divers, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and other means. The cause of the damage is currently unknown and the pipeline will remain shut down as Enbridge investigates. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to Enbridge CEO Al Monaco on Friday.

“One close call with Line 5 is one too many, which is why I am calling on Enbridge to proceed with the utmost caution and care,” Whitmer said.

“As Governor of the Great Lakes State I carry an immense burden to protect this priceless treasure that defines the contours of our state and our way of life,” Governor Whitmer wrote. “I anticipate and expect your full cooperation.”

In her letter, Whitmer asked that Enbridge provide Liesl Clark, director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and Dan Eichinger, director of the Department of Natural Resources all "engineering reports, photographs, video, and other demonstrative evidence of the damage" no later than Monday, June 22.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also released a statement on Friday.

"I was deeply troubled to learn of this most recent disclosure by Enbridge of yet another incident involving Line 5, this time resulting in considerable damage to an anchor support on the pipeline. Yet again, Enbridge has confirmed what we already know - Line 5 is a clear and present danger to our Great Lakes and to the millions of Michiganders who rely on those lakes for recreation, business and tourism. We anxiously await the immediate production of information from Enbridge in response to Governor Whitmer’s request so that we can evaluate what, if any, additional action my Department may need to take. In any event, this underscores why we will continue to vigorously pursue our lawsuit seeking to shut down the Straits pipelines."

In a statement from the National Wildlife Federation, Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes Regional Executive Director, said:

“This should be the end of the line for Line 5. How many more shoes have to drop until we stop putting the Great Lakes, our drinking water, our economy and our way of life at risk? The National Wildlife Federation applauds Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel for requiring Enbridge to prove that Line 5 is safe. Any safety determination needs to come directly from a third party as Enbridge has proven that it cannot be trusted with Michigan’s most valuable natural, economic and cultural resource. This latest violation should lead the governor to follow through on her promise to revoke Enbridge’s easement to operate in the Straits of Mackinac. What more evidence does the governor need of the immediate threat that Line 5 poses?”

Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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