GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new proposal put forward by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and federal prosecutors would ease requirements on Enbridge to inspect for “axial cracks” on Line 5 until 2037.
The modified consent decree was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. The agreement was approved by Department of Justice but still must be approved by a judge. It is connected to Enbridge’s settlement over the Line 6B spill in 2010 that dumped more than 840,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek near Marshall and caused widespread pollution along the Kalamazoo River.
According to the court documents, the last pressure tests and inspection for axial cracks was done in 2017 and found the pipeline to be in good shape. According to the report conducted by Kiefner and Associates Inc., the weakest “axial feature” found on the dual pipeline would still last “at least 40.9 years.” An axial crack is one that runs parallel with the pipeline — the type of failure that caused the Line 6B spill.
In a statement, company spokesperson Ryan Duffy says Enbridge continues to meet or exceed all federal regulations for Line 5.
“We run inline inspections several times a year on the Straits section of Line 5 and that is not going to change. Our focus is always on safety and protecting the environment, the water of the Great Lakes and the people who use them,” Duffy stated.
He continued: “We have worked very hard to satisfy the conditions set out in the Marshall Consent Decree and believe that we have reached the point that most of the Decree can be terminated.”
The modified consent decree is separate from Enbridge’s plan to dig a tunnel and build a new pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. The gas distribution company reached an agreement with former Gov. Rick Snyder to approve the project but it was suspended when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in 2019.
Line 5 was built in 1953 and is 645 miles long, starting in Superior, Wisconsin, weaving through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, under the Straits of Mackinac and through Michigan’s Lower Peninsula before crossing into Sarnia, Canada.
The pipeline carries up to 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas each day. The line is one 30-inch-diameter pipeline on land but splits into two 20-inch diameter pipelines under the Straits. The underwater pipes are also coated with enamel and are nearly three times as thick as a typical pipeline. Enbridge claims the pipelines were tested to withstand up to four times the amount of pressure it faces at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Several environmental groups, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and For Love of Water are pushing for the state or federal government to shut down Line 5 and force Enbridge to re-route the pipeline away from the Great Lakes.
The Department of Justice is taking public comment on Enbridge’s proposal through Nov. 17.
CORRECTION: This story has been modified to reflect that the proposal has been filed by the EPA and the DOJ. We regret the error.