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Judge orders Enbridge Line 5 temporarily shut down

Jun 26, 2020 06:15AM ● By Editor
A diver for the National Wildlife Federation inspects the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in 2013. Photo: Courtesy | National Wildlife Federation

By Justin Hicks from - June 25, 2020

A Michigan circuit judge has ordered a shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac in response to a temporary restraining order request by Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James Jamo made the decision Thursday, June 25, following the discovery of damageto the eastern stretch of the controversial twin pipeline.

In his order, Jamo wrote that the risk of harm to the Great Lakes and various communities and businesses that rely on the lakes would be “not only substantial but also in some respects irreparable.”

He granted the temporary shutdown until a hearing on the state’s request for a preliminary injunction, which is slated for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 30.

Related: Michigan attorney general seeks Enbridge Line 5 stop order

Enbridge shut the line down last week after finding “significant damage” caused by an anchor support. It resumed partial Line 5 operation on Saturday after it said it found no damage on the pipeline’s western leg.

The portion was reactivated despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asking that the entire line be shuttered until the damage could be investigated and reviewed by the state. On Monday, Nessel injunction and restraining order requests.

According to the judge’s ruling, Enbridge must cease operation of its West Line “as immediately as possible,” but within no more than 24 hours. Neither line may be restarted until a determination is made on the motion for a preliminary injunction.

In granting the temporary restraining order, Judge Jamo noted that the 1953 Easement Agreement between the state and Enbridge required Enbridge to exercise due care and operate the pipelines as a reasonably prudent person would. A 2018 agreement also required Enbridge to share the information related to the recent damage to the pipeline with the state.

Jamo wrote that Enbridge’s “failure to provide sufficient documentation to the state of Michigan related to the nature, extent, and cause(s) of the newly-discovered damage to Line 5 and its supporting infrastructure has resulted in the state’s inability to review or assess any risk of harm arising from the identified damage.”

Nessel called the ruling a “short-term fix” and said one mismanaged incident or accident involving the lines would “result in a historic catastrophe for our state.” She said work must continue toward complete removal of Line 5 from the state’s waters.

“Enbridge has failed to provide the state with information about the cause of this significant development involving Line 5, and so I’m very grateful for the court’s decision today,” Nessel said in a prepared statement. “While the fact that Enbridge reactivated one of the lines before consulting with the state is concerning, the fact that the company has failed to disclose the cause of this damage is equally alarming, considering the impact a breach in the pipeline could have to our state residents and economy.

“With the continued operation of this pipeline, the risk of severe and lasting environmental damage to Michigan’s most important natural resource continues to grow every day.”

The governor’s office applauded the court’s ruling.

“Governor Whitmer applauds the court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order to shut down Line 5 immediately, following severe damage to an anchor support,” said Tiffany Brown, press secretary for the governor’s office. “Enbridge’s decision to continue pumping crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac with so many unanswered questions was reckless and unacceptable.

“Enbridge owes a duty to the people of Michigan and must answer to the state for how it treats our Great Lakes. The governor will continue working to keep our water safe.”

Enbridge in a statement issued at 5:16 p.m. said the pipeline had been shut down. 

“Enbridge is disappointed in the court’s ruling as we believe that Life 5 is safe; however, the west leg of Line 5 has been shut down,” said Vern Yu, Enbridge Executive Vice President and President of Liquids Pipelines. 

The east leg had already been shut down pending a review of a disturbance discovered on one of its screw anchors, Yu said. 

A copy of the judge’s six-page order is available on the Michigan website, here.

To read the original story and see related reporting, follow this link to the website.

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