Enbridge Inc. rebuffed a request from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to shut down Line 5 after one of the supports for the pipeline sustained damage, according to a statement released by the company on Saturday.
Enbridge owns Line 5, a set of two 20-inch pipelines running under the Straits of Mackinac that pump crude oil. The company notified the state on Thursday that an anchor support on one of the pipelines had “incurred significant damage,” according to a statement from Whitmer’s office. The damage was reportedly discovered on or around May 26.
Upon discovering the damage, Enbridge originally shut down the pipeline and deployed divers and remotely operated vehicles to inspect the line, according to the company. Enbridge then resumed operations on the west leg of the line, which it deemed safe, while still keeping the east leg shut down.
Whitmer sent a letter to the company on Saturday, expressing concern that either line was open.
“Given the gravity of this matter, I was taken aback to learn the company has unilaterally resumed operation of the west leg without even opportunity for discussion,” Whitmer said in her letter. “At this moment, Enbridge is pumping crude through the Great Lakes on state-owned bottomlands without any explanation for the cause of this damage to the pipeline structure and no assurance that Enbridge has taken sufficient steps to mitigate future harm. This disregard for the safety and well-being of our Great Lakes, and Enbridge’s due care obligations under the 1953 Easement, is unacceptable.”
Whitmer also asked the company to provide a full report on the cause of the damage, as well as what actions Enbridge will take to prevent similar future occurrences. Whitmer said that once the report has been reviewed, Michigan and Enbridge can discuss the resumption of normal operations.
Al Monaco, the CEO of Enbridge, said in a response letter to Whitmer also sent on Saturday that the company had already notified its federal regulator, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It also said that it did not plan to shut down the second leg of the pipeline during the review of the damage.
“Our federal regulator, (the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), has no objections to this plan,” wrote spokesperson Ryan Duffy, BridgeMI reported.
Whitmer asked for the company to use caution.
“One close call with Line 5 is one too many, which is why I am calling on Enbridge to proceed with the utmost caution and care,” Whitmer said in a statement. “At this point in time, Enbridge has provided no reason to think this damage could not happen again, but next time with oil gushing into the Great Lakes.”
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]