News Story

Environmental Group Says Pipeline Is Unsafe, Its Owner Says Otherwise

It’s no secret that the Michigan League of Conservation Voters is working to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, which carries natural gas, propane and petroleum to Michigan, Ohio and Canada. The organization is asking people to sign a petition to close Line 5, for example.

Enbridge, the Canadian firm that owns the pipeline, says the environmental group is wrong, and the pipeline is not a threat to the Great Lakes.

The league said, “The 66 year old Line 5 is years beyond it’s [sic] engineered lifetime and represents an existential threat to the Straits and Lake’s Michigan and Huron.”

The group made that claim in an email it sent to the state’s Department of Attorney General in 2019. The email came from Alia Phillips, government affairs manager for the organization.

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy disputes the claim, saying there was never a set lifetime on Line 5.

“Like any piece of infrastructure, the Mackinac Bridge for example, the lifespan is determined by inspections and maintenance,” Duffy said in an email.

Duffy cited former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman to support his statement. In 2013, she testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, saying, “If (a pipeline) is adequately maintained and inspected, age is not an issue.”

Duffy said that the twin pipes that cross underneath the Straits of Mackinac are inspected every year, with visual inspection of the lines conducted by underwater equipment. Duffy said that in June 2017, Enbridge completed a hydrotest of Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits, and the pipeline passed the test with no issues. A hydrotest, he said, is “the most definitive type of test of a pipeline’s integrity.”

According to the company, Line 5 provided 65% of the propane used by families and businesses in the Upper Peninsula, as well as 55% of Michigan’s statewide propane needs.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.