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Michigan, Enbridge Energy sign agreement to replace Line 5

October 3, 2018 By    

Enbridge performs an external inspection of the pipeline near the Mackinac Bridge. The company has agreed to permanently shut down and replace Line 5. Photo courtesy of Enbridge

The state of Michigan and Enbridge Energy reached an agreement to permanently shut down the current segment of Line 5 that crosses the Straits of Mackinac and construct a new multi-use utility tunnel beneath the Straits.

Under the agreement, Enbridge will pay for all design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Line 5 tunnel for up to 99 years, subject to approvals by the Mackinac Bridge Authority, says the office of the governor. Construction of the tunnel is estimated to cost between $350 million to $500 million over the seven- to 10-year duration of the project. The infrastructure could also house broadband and electrical lines.

“This common-sense solution offers the greatest possible safeguards to Michigan’s waters while maintaining critical connections to ensure Michigan residents have the energy resources they need,” says Gov. Rick Snyder. “The historic agreement will result in eliminating nearly every risk of an oil leak in the Straits and provide added protections to the Great Lakes. It also will allow for multiple utilities to be housed and protected, better connecting our peninsulas, improving energy security and supporting economic development. The taxpayers of Michigan will benefit greatly from this project but won’t have to pay for it.”

According to the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Board, the agreement also demands specific actions at 13 other Line 5 water crossings and prohibits heavy crude from ever traveling through Line 5. The agreement also demands additional measures to reduce risk during tunnel construction, including shutting down the pipeline during high wave activity, provide consistent state supervision of Line 5, and installing cameras in the Straits to support new U.S. Coast Guard regulations prohibiting ships in the area from dropping anchor.

Replacing the existing Enbridge pipelines under the Straits with a tunneled version would increase the safety of the Great Lakes while ensuring that Michigan and other consumers continue to receive energy supplies, like propane, at an affordable price, says Jeff Petrash, general counsel for the National Propane Gas Association.

According to the agreement, following the completion of the Straits tunnel and after the replacement segment is constructed and services have begun, Enbridge will permanently deactivate the old pipelines.

Line 5 is instrumental in supplying propane in the state and region. It supplies the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with 65 percent of its propane, and more than 50 percent of the propane used in the Lower Peninsula is produced from crude oil and natural gas liquids carried by Line 5.

“We have been expecting the agreement between Governor Snyder and Enbridge, and we are relieved that the parties finally reached a solution,” says Derek Dalling, executive director of the Michigan Propane Gas Association. “With the uncertainty of the [gubernatorial] election, we were worried about a long-term solution and the potential problems facing the propane industry throughout entire Great Lakes region in the US and Canada. The industry should be grateful that the agreement provides a sound solution that protects both the Great Lakes and the propane industry.”

*Featured image courtesy of Paul Richter

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About the Author:

Clara Richter was a managing editor at LP Gas magazine.

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