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Federal agency sued over Enbridge Energy pipeline concerns

a map shows the straits of mackinac with some satellite imagery
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

The National Wildlife Federation is suing a federal agency over safety concerns about an oil pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5 is operated by Enbridge Energy, the company responsible for a massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

This lawsuit alleges that back in 2013, when the government approved the company's response plan if something should happen to Line 5,  it didn't do key, legally required environmental assessments about how a line rupture would affect wildlife and Great Lakes shores.

"If Enbridge is not following the laws, and if the laws haven't been properly enforced, then they no longer have a right to send oil under the Great Lakes,” says Mike Shriberg, NWF’s Great Lakes regional executive director. "The federal government didn't do its work in approving this plan, by not applying some of our ... key environmental laws."

While the federal agency did not immediately respond to our request for comment, a spokesperson for Enbridge Energy sent the following statement:

At this point we have not seen a copy of the lawsuit. Once we receive it we will closely review its content. We can assure Michigan residents that Enbridge has a very thoughtful and reviewed response plan in place should something happen along Line 5 in the Straits. Our response plan is specific to the Straits pipelines and provides detailed response strategies for emergency responders. It serves as a supplement to Enbridge’s Integrated Contingency Plan that was drafted and approved in 2013 following an extensive, PHMSA-coordinated peer review, which incorporated input from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA, an independent industry expert, and Canada’s National Energy Board. That said, in the past four years, we have invested billions of dollars in safety and integrity to make preventing leaks and spills is our highest priority. Line 5 is monitored 24/7 by a dedicated team. If there is a change in pressure or flow, Enbridge can remotely and automatically shut off flow within three minutes and activate trained responders. Enbridge is fully committed to operating all of its facilities responsibly with respect to safety and the environment. In September 2015, Enbridge completed a full-scale response preparedness drill in the Straits with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and local emergency responders. You can find that information on Line 5 atwww.enbridge.com/line5.

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

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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