Enbridge Pipeline Coating Damage Needs Fix, Michigan Says

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By Alex Ebert

Enbridge’s Line 5 gas and oil pipeline needs immediate repairs after the company reported that several sections had damaged coating, Michigan state officials said.

Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) repeated his calls to close the pipeline, which runs under Lake Michigan.

Three small sections of the pipeline—ranging from 1 inch in diameter to 1 square foot—were discovered Aug. 30 to have eroded coating on the outside of the pipeline. That coating protects the line from corrosion, and the damage might have been done during Enbridge’s renewed, controversial attempts to anchor the pipeline.

While officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources were quick to say the coating damage doesn’t pose an immediate threat, they said the discovery raises the possibility of deeper issues that could arise as the company works to anchor the 645-mile, 64-year-old pipeline to the bottom of Lake Michigan. The company is seeking permits to install 20 additional anchors to the lake floor, which would protect the pipeline from potential damage and from being buffeted about by the swiftly moving waters in the Straits of Mackinac. Research has shown that the strong currents in that section of Lake Michigan cause the line to move and could potentially lead to damage.

“This recent finding raises concerns about the actions Enbridge is taking to protect the waters of the Great Lakes,” Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh said in a statement. “We need to ensure that all appropriate risk mitigation measures have been put in place by Enbridge. Until that happens, we as a state will not be satisfied.”

Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Melody Kindraka told Bloomberg BNA that while there is no immediate threat to safety, the damage shows that there would be further problems created by installing the anchors. The damage also shows that Enbridge is responsible for some “concerning” and previously undiscovered damage to the pipeline, she said.

Enbridge Inc. issued a statement saying it will repair these sections “immediately following the completion of all sampling and coating inspections, and after obtaining any necessary permits.” The company said that the fact that it found these uncoated sections underscores “the effectiveness of Enbridge’s monitoring and maintenance program, which continues to exceed federal standards.”

Schuette, the attorney general, joined the state agencies and called for repair within 30 days.

“I am greatly concerned by the gaps discovered on the outer protective coating of Line 5,” he said in a statement. “We need to focus on a timeline to close Line 5, with a defined plan to ensure that Michigan residents in the [Upper Peninsula] have reliable access to propane and protect our lakes with sound science and modern regulatory policy.”

The mixed-use line transports 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas daily. A statewide petition drive is seeking signatures to place closure of the transport of crude through the line on next year’s ballot.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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