Report: High rents 'insufficient' to justify District Detroit construction costs

Trott, Dingell urge EPA for swift Line 5 review

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and David Trott are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to speed up its review of a Canadian oil transport company’s work plan for a pipeline running through the Great Lakes.

In a Friday letter, Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Trott, R-Birmingham, urged the EPA’s Chief Administrator Scott Pruitt to expedite a review of Enbridge’s Line 5 work plan after learning of the report that Enbridge posted online last year. It seemed to indicate 19 sections where protective coating may be compromised. Enbridge officials have denied any coating problems and said the 19 sections listed in the company’s own report were areas with “hypothetical” coating issues.

Line 5, which runs through the Straits of Mackinac, carries 23 millions of gallons of oil a day. A rupture could harm hundreds of miles of shoreline, a University of Michigan study has shown.

The company developed the work plan and identified the areas because of a federally required consent agreement after a 2010 pipeline rupture dumped 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River, according to Ryan Duffy, a spokesman for Enbridge in Michigan.

Duffy said there are no known sections of the pipe where the coating has worn off. He said engineers for the company have reviewed underwater video of the pipeline and have not discovered any issues.

Dingell and Trott are still urging for a quick review of the company’s work plan to make sure the pipeline is inspected on time.

“Enbridge identified several potential (areas) on the pipeline where there may be a loss of protective coating around the pipe,” the letter said. “We urge you to review Enbridge’s work plan in an expedited fashion so these vulnerabilities can be investigated as soon as possible.”

The EPA is expected to make a determination on the company’s plan by this spring, and the company plans to send divers down to inspect and take samples along the pipeline as early as this summer, Duffy has said. Dingell and Trott asked Pruitt to make sure a review of the plan is not delayed.

“Delaying the inspections another year could allow more corrosion to occur,” the letter said. “We therefore urge you to review Enbridge’s work plan in an urgent and expeditious manner so inspections can occur this year.”

The University of Michigan study, the letter said, found that more than 15 percent of Lake Michigan water and almost 60 percent of Lake Huron’s water could be impacted by an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac.

“This only further underscores the urgency of investigating these vulnerabilities as soon as possible,” the letter said.

“A spill in that location would have a devastating impact on the Great Lakes and the economy of the surrounding states,” Trott added in a statement Friday.

The report also has worried Jennifer McKay, a member of the state’s pipeline advisory board, after she stumbled upon it while reviewing Enbridge documents online. McKay prompted the pipeline safety board to request an Enbridge official answer questions about it at a March 13 board meeting.

Enbridge officials previously confirmed that Brad Shamla, vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge, will offer a presentation at the meeting and will be available for any questions from board members.

Duffy, in an email to The Detroit News late Friday, noted the pipeline is inspected frequently and in “great shape.”

“We continue to engage with the members of the Michigan Congressional delegation to make sure they have factual information about Line 5 and the hard work of our employees and contractors to protect the Straits, Great Lakes and other sensitive areas,” he said.


Twitter: @MikeGerstein