Fears of oil spill in Great Lakes lead to new deal, safeguards

Concerns about twin, 64-year-old pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac (which connect lakes Michigan and Huron) led to a new agreement in late November between the state of Michigan and Enbridge. In announcing the deal, Gov. Rick Snyder said “business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable.” According to the Detroit Free Press, the state has been frustrated about a “lack of forthrightness” regarding the safety of these pipelines, which are known as “Line 5” and carry up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids every day.

Under the agreement, Enbridge must:

  • install a new pipe in a portion of Line 5 that runs beneath the St. Clair River;
  • study the feasibility of replacing the 645-mile Line 5 with a pipeline that would be built in a tunnel below the Straits of Mackinac; and
  • take various measures to minimize the chances of an oil spill, including a shutdown of Line 5 operations during adverse weather conditions.
In recent years, the safe transport of energy resources (via pipeline, truck, rail or barge) has received more public attention across the Great Lakes basin, in part because of a rise in this activity due to production in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields and Alberta’s oil sands.

Stateline Midwest: December 20171.86 MB