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Michigan AG to file civil charges against ship that allegedly damaged Line 5

A tug and barge leaving Duluth port
Pete Markham
Wikipedia Commons

Michigan's Attorney General says the Escanaba-based company allegedly responsible for damage to two pipelines under the straits of Mackinac will face civil charges.

Bill Schuette says an investigation has determined that the Clyde S. VanEnkevort, a ship belonging to VanEnkevort Tug and Barge, was in the area when two pipelines were damaged by a dragging anchor.

“The vessel ignored markers in the channel and clearly identified hazards on navigational charts that make clear that an anchor should not be deployed in this area of the Straits," Schuette says in a press release. "Allowing a large anchor to drag along the bottomlands in the Straits has resulted in violations of state law, and we will hold VanEnkevort accountable.”

One of the pipelines damaged was the controversial oil pipeline, Enbridge's Line 5, which was dented. The other was a cable that leaked insulation fluid into the water after being struck. 

Schuette says the release of insulation fluid violates the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

Environmental groups say they're glad Schuette is pursuing the charges but he should also be working on decommissioning Line 5 as soon as possible.

A spokesman for VanEnkevort Barge and Tug confirms the company is "actively engaged" and "fully participating" with the Coast Guard in an investigation into an incident that occurred in the Straits of Mackinac.

Editor's note: Enbridge Energy is a financial sponsor of Michigan Radio

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that coolant had spilled from damaged cables into the Straits. The liquid was actually insulation fluid.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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