Sunday, November 05, 2017

UPDATED: State agencies note Enbridge lack of transparency on Line 5 damage; Oil and Water Don't Mix calls for Day of Action Nov. 6 to demand Line 5 shutdown

By Michele Bourdieu

Photo showing damaged coating on Line 5 pipeline. (Photo courtesy Oil and Water Don't Mix)

LANSING -- In an Oct. 27, 2017, press release the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expressed concerns that Enbridge knew of damage in the protective coating on a portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

The press release states that Enbridge Energy Partners, which owns and operates the line, possessed information about the damage in 2014 and failed to disclose it to Michigan state agencies. The damage to the coating occurred when Enbridge was installing anchors meant to better secure the pipeline to the lake bottom.

Call for Day of Action, Monday, Nov. 6

In response, the Oil and Water Don't Mix (OWDM) Campaign, a group based in Traverse City that has been calling attention to the dangers of Line 5 since 2013, is asking everyone who wants to see Enbridge's Line 5 decommissioned to call Michigan Attorney General Schuette on Monday, Nov. 6, and demand that he revoke Enbridge’s easement and begin the process of decommissioning Line 5 now.*

"The damaged coating left the bare steel of the pipeline exposed to the strong and unpredictable currents in the Straits of Mackinac, inviting corrosion and further weakening the pipeline," said Sean McBrearty, OWDM Campaign coordinator. "This fact, combined with the fact that the pipeline is ovalling and bending due to Enbridge not having the required anchor supports, leaves Line 5 in a very dangerous condition with winter conditions approaching that would make any spill from the pipeline nearly impossible to clean up."

Mary Pelton Cooper of Marquette, left, is pictured here with June Thaden of Traverse City during the Sept. 2, 2017, Pipe Out Paddle protest against Line 5. Both support the activist organization Oil and Water Don't Mix, which has been calling for the shutdown of Line 5 since 2013 and has called for a Day of Action on Monday, Nov. 6, asking concerned citizens to call Attorney General Bill Schuette to demand that he decommission Line 5. (Keweenaw Now file photo)**

DEQ extends permit application deadline for Enbridge

The DEQ has sent Enbridge a request for information on the coating damage to supplement the company's application for a permit to install additional anchors along the pipeline. By request of Enbridge, DEQ extended the application processing deadline from Nov. 2, 2017, to March 2, 2018, in order to more thoroughly review information sent by Enbridge.

The DEQ claims that recent pressure tests have confirmed the structural integrity of the pipeline. Nevertheless, the coatings remain a concern to state agencies because of the coating’s role in protecting the pipeline -- and because some of the damage was caused by Enbridge’s actions during maintenance activities. In addition, Enbridge had as recently as March of this year represented to the state’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board that there were no known concerns about the Line 5 coating, despite having documentation of this damage in 2014.

"The DEQ is going to take this revelation very seriously and will conduct a thorough assessment of the information to consider during our continued review of the permit application," said DEQ Director C. Heidi Grether.

Valerie Brader, MAE executive director and co-chair of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, expressed disappointment at Enbridge's lack of transparency concerning the coating deficiencies.

"Enbridge owes the people of Michigan, the Advisory Board and the State an apology," Brader said. "This issue is too important to the people of Michigan to not tell the truth in a timely manner, and right now any trust we had in Enbridge has been seriously eroded."

DNR Director Keith Creagh also called for greater transparency and oversight concerning Line 5.

"We will be seeking to ensure there are mechanisms in place to increase communication and stewardship on the part of Enbridge in the future," Creagh said.

Also expressing concern was Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

"It is imperative to have a good working relationship with our public and private sector partners to ensure public safety," Kelenske stated. "When one of our partners withholds vital information, it makes emergency and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery difficult."

Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline built in 1953 and runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Canada. It transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids. According to the Oct. 27 press release, the state is awaiting completion of an independent alternatives analysis regarding the Straits pipeline. Negotiations are ongoing between the state and a proposed contractor for a separate independent risk analysis on Line 5.

Michigan Tech invited to lead state universities in risk analysis

See Nov. 6, 2017, UPDATE below.

According to a Sept. 18, 2017, article by Stefanie Sidortsova in the Michigan Tech News, "State recommends Michigan Tech to lead Line 5 risk analysis," the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) voted unanimously on Sept. 18 to recommend Michigan Tech be placed at the helm of a risk analysis for Line 5, and "collaborate with other state universities to analyze the environmental and economic impacts of a 'worst-case scenario' spill or release."

The article notes that Guy Meadows, Michigan Tech professor and director of the Great Lakes Research Center, who has been serving as the representative of state universities on the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, recused himself from the PSAB Sept. 18 vote when Michigan Tech's name came up.

Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, is pictured here with Michigan Tech's environmental monitoring buoy that was deployed on Aug. 18, 2015, in the Straits of Mackinac, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. The buoy is intended to provide real-time environmental monitoring of the water conditions and to improve safety for Enbridge's pipelines under the Straits. (File photo courtesy Guy Meadows)

"If the State agrees with the recommendation, Meadows will resign from the board to lead the risk analysis process," the article adds.

It also notes the following:

"In conducting the risk analysis, Michigan Tech and the state universities would be tasked with analyzing:
  • The environmental fate and transport of oil or other products released from the Straits pipelines in a worst-case scenario,
  • How long it would take to contain and clean up the worst-case release,
  • The short- and long-term public health and safety impacts,
  • The short- and long-term ecological impacts, and
  • Potential measures to restore the affected natural resources and mitigate the ecological impacts."
The article adds that Michigan Tech and the other state universities would be under contract with the State of Michigan, would seek public comments on their work, and would have six months to complete their final report.***

UPDATE from Stefanie Sidortsova: At the present time (Nov. 6, 2017), Michigan Tech and the State of Michigan have not yet entered into a contract for the Line 5 risk analysis. Guy Meadows is finalizing a team of researchers who will develop a proposal for the State’s evaluation. After the proposal is submitted, there will probably be some back and forth communication between the team and the State regarding methods, approach, etc. The goal is to have a contract by Jan. 1, 2018, and to be finished with the draft assessment by the end of June 2018. Meadows has submitted to the Governor a letter of resignation from the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

Notes:

* Click here to learn how you can participate in the Nov. 6 Day of Action against Enbridge's Line 5.

** See our Sept. 16, 2017, article, "3rd annual Pipe Out Paddle protest against Enbridge's Line 5 under Mackinac Straits attracts Native, non-Native water protectors."

*** Click here to read the complete article by Stefanie Sidortsova, Michigan Tech Communications and Public Relations director, "State recommends Michigan Tech to lead Line 5 risk analysis," in the Michigan Tech News.

No comments: