Mackinac Island challenges Michigan over Line 5 anchor supports

By Michael Kransz
The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Michigan’s fudge capital is challenging decisions by state regulators last year to allow more anchor supports on the Line 5 oil and gas pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac.

The legal filings contend that state regulators didn’t appropriately evaluate alternatives and the potential for damaging environmental effects when they granted Enbridge Energy permits last year to install 70 more anchor supports on the 66-year-old pipeline, according to a Wednesday press release from lawyers representing Mackinac Island.

The challenges seek to rescind the permits and make the DEQ undertake those evaluations in accordance with the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, a state law intended to protect the lake bottoms.

“For years, island residents have been promised that Line 5 would have a limited life span. Instead of safely phasing out the dangerous aged dual lines in the Straits, state officials have proposed to extend the operation of the dual pipelines as much as another 10 years,” Margaret Doud, Mackinac Island’s mayor of more than 40 years, said in a statement.

“The city, people and businesses have waited far too long. It is time to bring Line 5 under the rule of law and bring it to an orderly closure. Enough is enough.”

Enbridge’s ongoing survey work necessary to complete a tunnel that would house a Line 5 replacement underneath the Straits of Mackinac likely won’t be hampered by the challenges, according to attorney Ross Hammersley with Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C., the firm representing Mackinac Island.

Like the challenges filed in the spring by Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and citizens group Straits of Mackinac Alliance, the city claims the recurrent addition of anchors to Line 5 constitute a new design that is beyond the scope of the 1953 agreement in which Michigan agreed to have the twin pipelines laid along the lake bottom.

Lawyers for the city likewise claim Enbridge has implemented this new design piecemeal under the guise of maintenance.

Because the almost 200 additional anchors constitute a new design, attorneys for the city contend, there should be a full review of the potential risks and impacts of that design and a requirement for Enbridge to prove there is no other alternative to oil transport other than the Straits pipeline.

If alternatives exist, the lawyers maintain, Line 5 should be shut down.

Screw anchors have been continually added to Line 5 over the past 15 years. The Department of Environmental Quality approved 22 anchors in March 2018 and 48 more in December 2018.

The number of anchors, including those only approved, total 195. Enbridge’s 1953 easement with the State of Michigan requires anchor supports on any gaps in the lake-bed span greater than 75 feet.

Enbridge officials previously said the use of anchor supports are part of larger work to keep Line 5 in “top condition.”

“In the 15 years we have been using them as part of our safe operations, support anchors have enhanced safety on Line 5,” Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy previously said.

Some environmental groups have criticized the anchor additions in the past because of their connection to gaps in the pipeline’s protective coating. A previous visual inspection of the pipeline revealed either calcareous deposits or bare metal on 42 of 48 anchor locations inspected.

The challenge by the city against DEQ’s approval of 48 anchors is being filed in tandem with Straits of Mackinac Alliance. The city is also seeking to join the Alliance and Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in their earlier filings against DEQ’s approval of the 22 anchors.

A hearing date before an administrative judge in Lansing on the petition against the 22 anchors is set for early February.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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