Group says oil company is breaking law under Straits of Mackinac

Apr 13, 2016

A postcard showing the construction of Line 5 in the 1950s.

An environmental group opposed to an oil pipeline beneath the Great Lakes has requested that state leaders shut down the pipe due to alleged safety violations.

The group Oil & Water Don’t Mix says the company operating Line 5 — Enbridge — is violating an easement granted by the state more than 60 years ago. The easement allows Enbridge to move oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.

A letter sent to the governor and attorney general's offices alleges several violations of the easement, including corrosion on the pipeline walls and failure to meet thickness requirements.

Enbridge says the group is making false assumptions, but environmental leaders say the evidence is clear.

“Our state government can no longer allow [Enbridge] to continue breaking the law,” Liz Kirkwood said at a press conference on Wednesday. Kirkwood is an environmental attorney and executive director of FLOW: For Love of Water.

Kirkwood says the state of Michigan has the legal authority to terminate the easement under the terms of the easement itself.

An Enbridge spokesman denied the allegations and said the company is in “full compliance” with the easement.

“As residents and officials, we deserve more than scare tactics and fearmongering,” Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum said.

Manshum did confirm that there are some corrosion issues with segments of Line 5 near the Straits. But he says those issues are on segments of pipe on shore — not under water. He says therefore the issues do not violate the terms of the easement.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is currently reviewing the information from Oil & Water Don’t Mix.

The attorney general is part of a newly formed Pipeline Safety Advisory Board that is probing Enbridge’s Line 5. The advisory board is seeking a consultant group to investigate the safety of the pipeline and seek possible alternatives.