An Ingham County Circuit Court judge has ordered Enbridge to immediately shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, saying the company inadequately disclosed information about damage to support structures discovered last week.
Judge James Jamo today granted Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request to temporarily shut down the pipeline pending the investigation and as a broader court challenge to Line 5 continues. The order suspends operations on both the east and west pipelines running along the lakebed in the Straits of Mackinac at least until next week.
Enbridge issued a statement late Friday afternoon saying the west line had been shut down.
“Enbridge is disappointed in the court’s ruling as we believe that Line 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.
On June 18, Enbridge disclosed “significant damage” to an anchor support that holds Line 5 in place. Enbridge had restarted operations on the west line two days after, to the dismay of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The east line has been shut down for the past week.
Nessel said in a statement she is “grateful” for the ruling, but added it’s “only a short-term fix.”
“If the lines are put back into operation, one mismanaged incident or accident would result in a historic catastrophe for our state. Work must continue toward complete removal of Line 5 from our waters,” Nessel said.
Judge Jamo granted Nessel’s motion “since the risk of harm to the Great Lakes and various communities and businesses that rely on the Great Lakes would be not only substantial but also in some respects irreparable.” He also noted that the state can’t adequately oversee the pipeline without the information about the incident that Whitmer has requested.
The state “retains a duty to protect public trust lands, and it is currently unable to do so as a result of (Enbridge’s) failures,” Jamo wrote.
Enbridge has said the west line was inspected and safe to reopen, and noted that it received approval to do so by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
However, Jamo said the documentation provided thus far has been insufficient to support restarting the west line.
“Furthermore, the severe risk of harm that may result from (Enbridge’s) operation of the West Line if wrong in its conclusion that it can safely do so in spite of recent damage to Line 5 of unknown origin is so substantial and irreparable, and endangers so many communities and livelihoods and the natural resources of Michigan, the danger far exceeds the risk of financial loss to Defendants if the west pipe of Line 5 is shut down pending hearing and further related Court Order.”
Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said in a statement that the company’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.”
Nessel’s request was filed as part of an ongoing case over the environmental risk of Line 5 and whether its operation violates public trust laws. The Circuit Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case on Tuesday.
The Great Lakes Business Network, a group of more than 130 business owners who have been pushing to decommission Line 5 for more than three years, supported Nessel’s latest request, citing the risk to the Great Lakes posed by an oil spill, as MiBiz previously reported.
“If there were any type of Line 5 rupture in the Straits now, we could never withstand the economic hit from such a disaster,” Chris Shepler, owner of Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, said previously. “It would immediately put me and many other Mackinac Straits area businesses out of business for good.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with information from Enbridge noting that it had shut down the Line 5 pipeline.