Tag: Enbridge Energy

For Immediate Release: FLOW RESPONDS TO STATE-ENBRIDGE AGREEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        November 27, 2017

Contact:  Liz Kirkwood                                                       Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org
Executive Director                                                              Office: (231) 944-1568
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                 Cell: (570) 872-4956


TRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW issued the following statement today regarding the announcement of an agreement between the state of Michigan and Enbridge Energy concerning the company’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the open waters of the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet:

“It is imprudent and arbitrary for the Governor to unilaterally sign a deal with Enbridge before the legal processes and evidence, including the opinion of experts on all sides, have been thoroughly reviewed and completed. Governor Snyder appears to have ignored and violated his own executive order, law, rules and once more ignored his public trust duties toward the Great Lakes, water, public health and safety, and the protection of citizens.”

“While the Governor’s agreement with Enbridge imposes some important interim safety measures, these measures should be steps toward the final shutdown – not replacement – of the pipelines.”

“It makes no sense to trust Enbridge to abide by a new agreement when it has been flagrantly violating its existing commitments and attempting to conceal those violations.”

“This is the same company that brought Michigan the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history and that misled both state and federal authorities for three years about its pipeline anchors causing bare metal spots on 48 locations along Line 5 in the Straits.”

“The Governor cannot preordain the tunnel option without Enbridge submitting an application under state law — the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act — and demonstrating that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to continuing to use the Great Lakes as a high-risk shortcut for transporting oil from one part of Canada to another.”

“The presumed tunnel option bypasses and prematurely dictates the future of Line 5 and sidelines the three-year process that the Governor set into motion with the creation of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force and the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board under his executive order.”

“The final alternatives analysis just came out on November 20 and the public comment period ends on December 22.  This agreement completely eviscerates any meaningful opportunity for the public to weigh in on alternatives.  Moreover, the public and the Governor’s office still do not have a comprehensive study analyzing the risk of Line 5 and its alternatives.”

“The Governor’s preemptive move today continues to violate treaty-reserved rights that predate Michigan’s statehood. The five federally recognized tribes whose fishing rights are located in the Straits of Mackinac were never consulted in 1953, and again were not consulted as part of this 2017 agreement between Enbridge and the State of Michigan. Sixty percent of the tribal commercial whitefish harvest comes from the spawning grounds in the Straits of Mackinac.”


FLOW (For Love of Water) is a Great Lakes water law and policy center and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Traverse City, Michigan. Our mission is to protect the common waters of the Great Lakes Basin through public trust solutions.


Illuminating Information in the Straits of Mackinac

Deep beneath the Straits of Mackinac, where twin petroleum pipelines cross the lakebed, sunlight has difficulty penetrating. But there’s more illumination at that depth than there is on key information involving the safety of the pipelines, thanks to deplorable tactics of state agencies and the pipeline owner, Enbridge. The recent disclosure of state-company collusion to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should concern all citizens.

The pipelines, part of the Line 5 route, qualify as a matter of significant public interest because they were laid down 64 years ago and have been poorly maintained by Enbridge. An August 30 underwater inspection of the pipelines revealed that the screw-anchors used to shore up the pipeline are themselves causing damage to the pipeline coating and creating bare metal gaps in the cathodic protection. Seven bare areas on the pipeline the size of dinner plates were identified. This is the latest in a long list of disclosures that reveal Enbridge to be cavalier in its stewardship responsibilities – and its most important duty – to prevent a catastrophic oil spill fouling a vast area of the Great Lakes.

Why, then, would state government agencies want to collaborate with Enbridge or the contractors hired with their money in eluding public scrutiny of information related to the pipeline risks? But that’s what they did.

Instead of obtaining copies of documents that citizens could request under FOIA, state officials accessed a website controlled by a private contractor, Det Norske Veritas, where they could view but not download the information. This was not pedestrian material. It included “figures depicting hypothetical migration of oil in the environment” from a spill. Michigan citizens, not just state officials, have every right to view that information.

This is not the first time the state has participated in a scheme to keep information about Line 5 from the public. In 2014, when Enbridge originally provided information to the state as part of the Line 5 review, the company set up a password protected portal for the state to review information but not to download. The logic was similar to that of the most recent subterfuge: that because the information was not downloaded, it was not in the possession of the state, and therefore not subject to FOIA. It took the state two years to release Enbridge’s information, in April 2016.

The state ultimately fired Det Norske Veritas for undisclosed conflicts of interest. But the firm’s effort to circumvent FOIA – and the state’s willing cooperation – were equally egregious. Access to information is one of the core tenets of government accountability. 

Statutes like FOIA are nicknamed “sunshine laws.”  They were written for a reason, to assure protection of the public’s right to know about matters like a potential oil spill affecting public waters.  It’s time for the state to clearly and unhesitatingly affirm its commitment to letting the sun shine on everything pertaining to a grave threat to the Great Lakes.


Officials require more supports beneath oil pipes

Click here to read the article on record-eagle.com 

By The Associated Press

July 25, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Two oil pipelines at the bottom the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan will get additional support structures to help prevent potentially devastating spills, officials said Thursday.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said they had put Enbridge Energy Partners LP on notice following the company’s acknowledgement it was partly out of compliance with an agreement dating to 1953, when the pipelines were laid in the Straits of Mackinac.

As a condition of an easement granted by the state, Enbridge agreed that support anchors would be placed at least every 75 feet. In a response last month to a lengthy series of questions about the condition of the lines from Schuette and Wyant, the Canadian company acknowledged some sections don’t meet the requirement, although the average distance between supports is 54 feet.

“We will insist that Enbridge fully comply with the conditions of the Straits Pipeline Easement to protect our precious environmental and economic resources and limit the risk of disaster threatening our waters,” Schuette said.

Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said the company had agreed to add more supports, even though engineering analyses peer-reviewed by experts at Columbia University and the University of Michigan concluded previously that gaps of up to 140 feet between supports would be safe. The work will begin in early August and be completed within 90 days, she said. Afterward, the average distance between supports will be 50 feet.

“The Straits of Mackinac crossing has been incident-free since it was constructed in 1953,” Larson said. “Through even greater oversight, the use of new technology and ensuring all risks are monitored and where necessary mitigated, Enbridge is committed to maintaining this incident-free record into the future.”

The two pipelines are part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 runs through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac, then continuing to Sarnia, Ontario.

The line divides into two 20-inch pipes beneath the straits at depths reaching 270 feet and carries nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. The 5-mile-wide straits area is ecologically sensitive and a major tourist draw.

A June report by hydrodynamics specialist David Schwab of the University of Michigan Water Center concluded that because of strong currents, a rupture of the pipeline would quickly foul shorelines miles away in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Larson said Enbridge began installing steel anchors for the underwater lines in 2002, replacing sandbag supports. They consist of 10-foot-long screws augured into the lakebed on either side of the pipes, holding a steel saddle that provides support. No washouts have been seen during inspections since then, she said.

Schuette and Wyant said their staffs are still reviewing Enbridge’s responses to other questions about the pipelines.

Enbridge Energy Partners is a unit of Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.

DEQ and Attorney General Determine Enbridge in Violation of 1953 Easement

On July 1st, FLOW along with 16 conservation, water and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder urging greater state action to regulate Enbridge’s 61 year-old Line 5, which transports some 23 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products under the Straits of Mackinac each day. This means that at any given moment, 365 days a year, nearly one million gallons of crude oil is flowing under the Straits. The letter pointed out potential violations in operations and public disclosure requirements established by Public Act 10 of 1953 and the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. Read the press release here. 

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Attorney General have since determined, in a July 24, 2014 letter, that the company is in violation of the 1953 easement’s spacing requirement for pipeline supports. In response, the DEQ issued Enbridge a Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) permit for maintenance and structural improvements on the same day (Enbridge’s final permit No. is 14-49-0017-P). Read the official letter here.

Although this is a step in the right direction, FLOW and other groups continue to urge the Governor and the DEQ to require an occupancy agreement for the entire pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

A State analysis of reasonable and proper pipeline procedures is necessary given modern technology, industry standards, products being transported, and risks to our public resources. Requiring Enbridge file a GLSLA occupancy agreement would allow this analysis and fulfill this term of the easement. As trustee of the Great Lakes, Governor Snyder has the authority under the 1953 easement, Act 10 of 1953, and the common law of public trust to demand that Enbridge file such an agreement.

FLOW and the other coalition groups from the July 1st sign-on letter are planning to meet with Governor Rick Snyder’s office and the DEQ later this month to discuss the State’s vital role in regulating the Line 5 pipeline and protecting these public trust waters of the Great Lakes.

FLOW Takes Lead Authoring Line 5 Letter to Governor: Elevating the Public Trust Duty to Protect the Great Lakes

On July 1, 2014, FLOW, along with sixteen other conservation, water, and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians submitted a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, urging him to address Enbridge’s 61 year-old Line 5 oil pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan-Huron. The letter addressed Enbridge’s lack of transparency and disclosure regarding its current use of Line 5, as well as the Company’s compliance record with the terms and conditions of the 1953 easement and agreements it made under Act 10, P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), and public trust law.

State’s Perpetual Public Trust Duty to Protect Great Lakes

As the State’s primary trustee of the Great Lakes public trust waters and bottomlands, Governor Snyder has the solemn perpetual duty to ensure that the actions of both public and private parties are not likely to harm this shared resource. This means that the State must ensure uninterrupted use for fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking supplies for future generations.

Letter’s Requests to the Governor

The signatories have asked that the Governor exercise his broad legal authority to demand that Enbridge:

  1. Submit the information the Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality requested in their joint April 29 letter and make such information available to the public.
  2. Submit detailed information regarding the product contents, use, and safety of Pipe Line 5.
  3. File a conveyance application under the GLSLA.
  4. Achieve full compliance with all express terms and conditions of the easement.

Enbridge’s Track Record

Since 1999, Enbridge has been responsible for over 800 oil spills, leaking a total of 6.8 million gallons of oil into the environment. Michiganders will remember Enbridge’s catastrophic Line 6B pipeline spill along a 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River, discharging some one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil and resulting in a $1 billion cleanup cost. Enbridge’s Lack of Disclosure Raises Questions About Compliance with 1953 Easement Based on Enbridge’s track record and the ecologically sensitive location of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, the signatories urged the State to take swift and meaningful action to ensure full compliance with the terms of the easement and the long-term protection of the Great Lakes. A review of the 1953 easement revealed a lack of transparency, disclosure, and compliance with the following expressed terms and conditions:

  1. Maximum Operating Pressure (MOP): The MOP of the pipeline is 600 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). Recent data raises questions as to whether or not Enbridge is adhering to this pressure requirement.
  2. Complete Records of Oil: Under the terms of the easement, The State of Michigan has express authority to require Enbridge to disclose and make available complete records of oil and all other substances being transported in the Line 5 pipelines.
  3. Maximum Span of Unsupported Pipeline: The records are incomplete as to whether or not Enbridge has complied with the 75 foot maximum span of unsupported pipeline requirement. Enbridge’s recent “maintenance” DEQ permit requests to place anchoring supports on the bottomlands of the lakes raises questions about full compliance with this easement term.
  4. Maximum Curvature Requirement: Enbridge should disclose current data showing that no section of Line 5 violates the maximum curvature requirement of a 2050 foot radius, as specified in section A(4) of the the 1953 easement.
  5. Adequacy of Liability Insurance Provision: The term of the easement requires that Enbridge maintain at least $1 million in insurance coverage. However, the $1 billion cost associated with the breach of Line 6B along the Kalamazoo River raises serious questions regarding the sufficiency of the protection offered by the 1953 easement.

The absence of such information – all of which is mandatory though Public Act 10 of 1953, the 1953 easement, the GLSLA, and the public trust doctrine – makes it impossible to truly assess the risks and ramifications of a devastating crude oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes. Moreover, as trustee of the Great Lakes, the State of Michigan and its agencies have unfettered authority under the GLSLA and public trust law to demand that Enbridge provide such transparency, discloser, accountability, and compliance.

Next Steps

Line 5 is a Michigan and Great Lakes public trust issue, not a partisan one. The time to act is now given the age of the pipeline and Enbridge’s recent efforts to increase Line 5’s capacity and a change in product to synthetic crudes. Public trust authority empowers the state to require Enbridge to disclose all relevant information on Line 5 and provide much needed transparency and accountability. This, in turn, will  ensure our common waters are protected for current and future generations.

Given the gravity of this situation, all signatories of the letter have asked to meet with Governor Snyder to discuss the aforementioned desired actions at his earliest convenience. Below is the list of groups that have signed-on to this letter.

  • Michigan Environmental Council (MEC)
  • For Love of Water (FLOW)
  • Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC)
  • Michigan Land Use Institute
  • League of Conservation Voters (LCV)
  • Freshwater Future
  • Northwest Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC)
  • Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet Counties
  • Article 32.org
  • Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC)
  • Michigan Resource Stewards
  • SURF Great Lakes.org
  • Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment (SACCPJE)
  • TC350.org
  • The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC)
  • Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
  • Straits Area Audubon Society

Click here to read the letter to Governor Snyder

Click here to read the Press Release

News Articles

AP News Article 

ABC12 News Article

Detroit News Article 

Toledo News Now Article 

The State News Article

WGVU News Article