Judge Shuts Down Energy Pipeline In Michigan’s Great Lakes
A judge shut down an energy pipeline in Michigan’s Great Lakes on Thursday, granting a request from the state after the owner reported problems with a support piece far below the surface.
Enbridge Inc. has not provided enough information to Michigan officials to show that continued operation of the west leg of the Line 5 twin pipeline is safe, Ingham County Judge James Jamo said.
He told Enbridge to close Line 5 as “immediately as possible” but no later than 24 hours.
Without the temporary order, “the risk of harm to the Great Lakes and various communities and businesses that rely on the Great Lakes would be not only substantial but also in some respects irreparable,” the judge said.
There was no immediate comment from Enbridge, a Canadian company based in Calgary, Alberta.
Enbridge’s Line 5 carries oil and natural gas liquids used in propane from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario. A four-mile (6.4-kilometer) segment divides into two pipes that lie on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.
Enbridge last week said an anchor support on the east leg of the pipeline had shifted. The company said Line 5 itself was not ruptured and that no oil spilled into the water.
The east leg remains shut down, but Enbridge resumed the flow on the west line Saturday.
The judge said he’ll hold a hearing Tuesday on the state’s request for a preliminary injunction that, if granted, could keep Line 5 closed indefinitely.
“With the continued operation of this pipeline, the risk of severe and lasting environmental damage to Michigan’s most important natural resource continues to grow every day,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
Line 5 delivers 65% of the propane that heats Upper Peninsula homes and 55% of Michigan’s propane needs, according to Enbridge. It has been operating since 1953.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer criticized the restart of the west leg of Line 5, calling it a “brazen disregard for the people of Michigan” and the safety of the Great Lakes.
Enbridge wants to ultimately put the twin pipes in a tunnel to protect them. The project was approved in 2018 by a Republican administration before Nessel and Whitmer, both Democrats, took office.