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State plans to move forward with new risk study on Line 5, but timeline uncertain

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio
Enbridge Energy's Line 5 pipeline lies under the Straits of Mackinac. State officials plan to unveil an "alternative analysis" of best future use for the pipeline early next month.

The state of Michigan recently terminated its contract with an independent contractor that was analyzing any potential risk posed by Enbridge Energy’s 64-year-old Line 5 pipeline.

Firing that contractor leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The state says the company, Det Norske Veritas, a Norwegian firm, failed to follow conflict of interest rules. An employee of the firm was working on the state’s request for a risk analysis of the 64-year-old pipeline and then also did work for Enbridge.

Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, says there was a coalition of state agencies that sought out a contractor to assess Line 5. She says after learning about a potential conflict of interest, efforts to find a workaround solution fell short.

“We were first notified there might be [a conflict of interest] in late May,” Brader said. “We tried to get the contractor to propose some solutions to this. The solutions that were proposed just in our mind were not going to cure the fundamental problem, and last week we decided the [risk analysis] reports were going to be unusable.” 

Brader says the contractor hadn’t yet received any payment for the analysis from the state. She says there is another firm doing an “alternative analysis” of Line 5, including an engineering analysis to consider the best use of Line 5 in the future.

Brader says the options range from shutting down Line 5 to continuing to use it as it is today, with a litany of options in between.

The report Det Norske Veritas was commissioned to complete was supposed to determine the financial cost of a “worst case” scenario spill of Line 5 into the Great Lakes.

The state has a series of public information sessions about Line 5 scheduled for this summer. See the schedule here.

Listen to the entire conversation above.  

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