In order to make a decision on Enbridge Energy’s proposal to build an oil pipeline through a tunnel beneath a waterway connecting two of the Great Lakes, a regulatory panel in Michigan stated on Thursday that it needs additional details regarding the safety hazards.
By a vote of 3 to 0, the Michigan Public Service Commission decided to look into the possibility of electrical equipment-related explosions and fires while the tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac was being built.
For Enbridge to replace two existing Line 5 pipelines in the straits, which connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, with a new portion that would run via the planned subterranean tunnel, the commission’s permission would be necessary.
Chairman Dan Scripps remarked, “This has been a lengthy process. “We want to be certain that we do it correctly.”
Line 5 is the subject of ongoing legal disputes between Enbridge and the state of Michigan. The 69-year-old underground pipeline transports Canadian crude oil and natural gas liquids for propane from refineries in Sarnia, Ontario, via northern Michigan and Wisconsin.
A 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) segment splits into two pipes and traverses the straits’ floor.
Environmental organizations and Native American tribes have long called for Enbridge to close the line because they are concerned that a rupture will destroy the lakes. However, the company is violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s order to do so in 2020. In a federal lawsuit, the corporation claims that the line is in good shape and that the Democratic governor has the authority to shut it down.
Enbridge, a Calgary, Alberta-based company, and former Rick Snyder, a Republican, agreed to build the $500 million tunnel in 2018. Enbridge is awaiting news from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Public Service Commission after obtaining permits from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
The commission declared in the previous year that it would not decide whether the entire 645-mile (1,038-kilometer) line should remain in operation, instead choosing to concentrate on the underwater portion.
Its three members were chosen by Whitmer. Democrats Scripps and Tremaine Phillips are, while independent Katherine Peretick.
The panel ruled on Thursday that there was insufficient information regarding tunnel engineering and dangers in the evidence, exhibits, and briefings.
The ruling stated that information concerning the dual pipes’ upkeep and safety, “including shutdown procedures and leak detection systems,” is also absent.
After the meeting in Lansing, when contacted by phone, Scripps stated that Enbridge had estimated the possibility of an oil discharge from the tunnel pipe to be “one in a million.” He claimed that the commission is interested in the formula used to arrive at the number as well as the actions are taken to rule out even that possibility.
Enbridge claimed in a statement that it had already provided “extensive “material on those topics but would also supply more information.
“To ensure the safety and design life of the tunnel, its engineering and design have been developed in compliance with the tunnel agreement entered with the state and in close consultation with the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority “The business stated.
Under Snyder, a body called the corridor authority was established to manage tunnel construction and operation.
Pipeline opponents applauded the commission’s efforts to find out more.
“Enbridge has not demonstrated this project’s viability or safety, “said National Wildlife Federation spokesperson Beth Wallace. “Enbridge has repeatedly shown that they should not be trusted to operate Line 5 or to blow a tunnel through the Great Lakes.”
The commission’s ruling was just the most recent in a string of setbacks for the tunnel, whose completion the business had targeted for 2024. Currently, the Army Corps is working on a protracted environmental impact study.
Enbridge stated that it is still committed to the undertaking.
The commission was asked to “get back to work, move the tunnel project forward and protect tens of thousands of Michigan jobs” by the Great Lakes Michigan Jobs Coalition, which is made up of business and labor organizations.”
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