Judge OKs oil flow through second Great Lakes pipeline


TRAVERSE CITY — Enbridge said Wednesday it will fully resume operation of a Michigan Great Lakes oil pipeline after a partial shutdown this summer because of damage to a support structure.

Circuit Judge James Jamo signed an order allowing the Canadian company to restore the flow through one of its Line 5 pipes beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

The line carries oil and liquids used in propane between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, passing through parts of Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. A 4-mile-long segment divides into two pipes that cross the straits.

Enbridge reported in June that an anchor supporting the underwater section’s eastern leg had been bent and scraped, although the pipe itself was unharmed. An investigation concluded that a vessel — possibly belonging to one of Enbridge’s contractors — might have dragged a mooring cable across the pipes.

Jamo approved a request June 25 from state Attorney General Dana Nessel to close the line but, six days later, allowed Enbridge to restart the western leg.

On Wednesday, the judge said Enbridge could resume the flow through the eastern leg as well. He noted that the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had given its approval last week, saying a review had found no “integrity issues” in the area around the damaged support anchor.

“The decision to allow the restart of the east segment of Line 5 is very positive for the many residents and businesses in Michigan and the Great Lakes region who depend on the energy Line 5 delivers,” said Vern Yu, the company’s executive vice president.

Environmentalists said Jamo’s ruling underscores the need for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to force a shutdown by withdrawing a state easement that allowed the company to place the line in the straits in 1953. They contend it is vulnerable to a catastrophic rupture, which Enbridge denies, although it is seeking permits to relocate the underwater portion of Line 5 in a tunnel beneath the straits.

“Enbridge has shown time and again they cannot be trusted,” said Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation. “The governor has the power, authority and obligation to protect our Great Lakes, tourism economy and ‘Pure Michigan’ way of life by revoking the easement and shutting down the dangerous pipeline permanently.”

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