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New federal rules target Michigan's Line 5 safety concerns

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
The east pipeline along Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac was damaged during an anchor strike last year.

The federal agency that regulates pipelines across the United States announced new rules Tuesday.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) implemented regulations that increase inspections and leak detection technology on pipelines, while also increasing oversight on damaged pipelines.

Several of the new rules seem to be in response to safety concerns over the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

Last April, an anchor struck and damaged the pipelines. In written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Enbridge Energy says the company conducted hands-on inspections of the pipelines after they were hit, but it did not say how long it took them to do that.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) supports the changes, and says one rule would allow PHMSA to shut down pipelines that are in poor enough condition.

“Eventually the pipeline was shut down temporarily [after the anchor strike], but it took a lot of effort to make that happen.” Peters says. “That should not be the case. PHMSA needs very direct authority if there’s a potential hazardous situation.”

In a statement Enbridge Energy, the company Canadian company that operates Line 5, said they support the new regulations.

"We’re encouraged to see PHMSA finalize these important rulemakings focused on further enhancing the safety of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure," Spokesman Ryan Duffy said via email. "We take a comprehensive approach to monitoring our pipeline systems to ensure safe and reliable operations. Enbridge intends to fully comply with the new PHMSA rules."

The rules take effect on July 1, 2020.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.