Environmental leader praises plan for new Line 5 study

Sep 20, 2017

Enbridge's Line 5
Credit University of Michigan

The state of Michigan will sponsor a new analysis of the risks posed by an oil and gas pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. 

In June, the state cancelled a contract with a firm doing a previous risk study, when it learned one of the firm’s researchers was also working on a project for Enbridge – the company that operates Line 5. 

The risk analysis was supposed to be completed at the same time as a study of alternatives to the pipeline.

Now Michigan’s pipeline safety board has chosen Michigan Technological University professor Guy Meadows to assemble a panel of experts and to lead a new study. 

“It really is one of the best options we have because they can do it in a timely manner,” says Jennifer McKay, the policy director for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council in Petoskey. “They can do it within the budget that we currently have available.”


Meadows has worked with Enbridge in the past through Michigan Tech, but McKay says she trusts him. 

“I have full faith in Guy Meadows that he can put forth an impartial risk analysis even with the fact that he has these contracts [with Enbridge] in the past,” McKay says. 

The pipeline safety board made the decision to start a new study at a meeting Monday. It was the first meeting of the board since news broke that a problem with Line 5’s protective coating was worse than previously thought. 

“[The coating] is one of the two primary measures to prevent corrosion of a pipeline,” McKay says, “and corrosion on a pipeline is one of the primary means that causes failures and ruptures.”

MPRN reported last week that some parts of Line 5 are missing protective coating in areas up to a square-foot in diameter. That is larger than Enbridge had previously reported. 

McKay says the state has requested a report from Enbridge on the status of the coating and also a plan to repair the line.