Line 5 Deterioration Violates Public Trust & Safety
Governor Whitmer must take immediate action to protect Michigan’s people, wildlife, and waters from yet another major infrastructure failure.
This week, Enbridge Energy disclosed that Line 5, their 67-year-old oil pipeline that runs through the Great Lakes, has even more protective coating peeling away. This comes two years after Enbridge first admitted to regulators with the State of Michigan that required protective coating has been peeling away for years – inspection videos show gaps in coating dating back to 2012. Protective coating is required to prevent the pipeline from coming into contact with elements, such as water and soil, that can increase corrosion and cracking. Having any sections of line 5 with exposed bare metal is a clear and direct violation of the easement—which permits operation–with the State of Michigan and could lead to catastrophic integrity issues that imperil wildlife, waters, and nearby communities
Making matters worse is the way this violation was discovered: Enbridge did not discover these coating gaps through their long touted internal inspections, which Enbridge claims is the verification that Line 5 is safe for operation. Instead, it took dive crews in the water, working on the pipeline, for discovery. Not only that, Enbridge, nor the State, have yet to determine what’s causing this issue with Line 5, which has been ongoing for years and is clearly happening at high frequency between dive inspections. Yet, Governor Whitmer and her administration have not upheld the law by revoking the easement with Enbridge.
What Causes Coating Deterioration?
Deterioration has historically been attributed to swift currents peeling away the coating, debris hitting the lines, steel anchor supports rubbing against the line and aquatic growth pulling the coating off the pipeline. It could be a combination of all these risk factors and nobody knows how bad the situation is and how frequently it occurs. What is clear is that this is a direct and ongoing violation of the easement that is not fully curable.
Large sections of Line 5 in the Great Lakes that Enbridge can’t inspect through dive operations because the line is covered in debris, growth or backfill. This is a very frightening situation as we do not know the degree to which Line 5’s protective coating has been compromised
What is At Risk?
Enbridge is fully aware that their pipeline systems experience corrosion cracking and of the complete destruction that can cause. Almost 10 years ago, to this date, Enbridge’s Line 6b ruptured in southern Michigan. The reason? The protective coating was peeling away, which allowed water and sediment to corrode the pipeline causing small cracks to form. Enbridge ignored the cracking, federal agencies were asleep at the wheel, and eventually those cracks merged into one large crack and created the 6-foot gash that allowed over a million gallons of tar sands oil to pollute 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River watershed, killing thousands of wildlife, displacing dozens of families and closing sections of the river for years.
How You Can Protect the Great Lakes
The state has yet to comment on the situation. Attention is currently on yet another devastating disaster caused by failure to maintain private energy infrastructure, a dam, which failed and covered Midland in nearly 9 feet of water.
In fact, the dam near Midland is a very real and devastating example on why the state needs to act swiftly on Line 5. These ticking time bombs can and will destroy communities and our states economy if we don’t act to stop private companies from exploiting our resources for private interests by continuing to operation infrastructure that is well past its designed life and has known safety issues.
Attorney General Dana Nessel fully understands this risk and has taken action to dissolve the Line 5 easement, which many argue should have never been issued in 1953. Governor Whitmer needs to use her executive authority to act on these ongoing violations before the heart of the Great Lakes is destroyed by a company that has proven time and time again that they can’t maintain this pipeline in our cherished waters. Enbridge continues to operate this pipeline without care for the devastation it can cause to our drinking water, economy and way-of-life. This is a clear violation of public trust and the pipeline has to be shut down as soon as possible.