In a roller-coaster week for Enbridge Inc., the Calgary-based company celebrated a green light on Friday to expand one of its pipelines in Minnesota, just hours before the Michigan Governor filed a lawsuit to halt operations of a separate line under the Great Lakes.
The good news-bad news week for the company’s U.S. pipelines follow criticism from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who called Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney-General Dana Nessel “brain dead” for their roles in a protracted legal battle that has the state government trying to get the underwater section of Enbridge Line 5 removed within two years.
Ms. Whitmer told Enbridge Enbridge Friday the state is terminating the easement permit that allows Line 5 to carry 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids below the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge intends to fight the decision in court, the company told The Globe and Mail in an e-mail.
The legal notice filed by Ms. Nessel cites Enbridge’s “violation of the public trust doctrine” and noncompliance with easement conditions as reasons for the revocation. The termination requires the pipeline to be shut down in 180 days, on May 12, 2021.
Enbridge counters that Line 5 operates safely, and says there is “no credible basis” for terminating an easement permit that dates back to the pipeline’s construction in 1953. It also criticized the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for conducting assessments “in a non-public manner” and not allowing technical experts to discuss any questions or clarifications related to the review.
“Line 5 is an essential source of energy for not only Michigan but for the entire region including Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and Quebec. Any disruption would have devastating consequences,” Enbridge said.
Enbridge shut down Line 5 in June after discovering the pipeline’s anchor support had shifted from its original position, but maintained the damage didn’t affect the pipeline’s ability to operate.
Ms. Whitmer, however, said the shift called into question the integrity and viability of Line 5, and requested Enbridge turn over all information about the damage and provide evidence the pipeline was safe.
“As Governor of the Great Lakes State I carry an immense burden to protect this priceless treasure that defines the contours of our state and our way of life,” Ms. Whitmer wrote in a letter to Enbridge chief executive officer Al Monaco at the time. “I anticipate and expect your full co-operation.”
Ultimately, the state argues Line 5 should be shut down regardless of whether or not a replacement line is complete, because it doesn’t want to risk an oil spill in the Great Lakes.
Enbridge stocks dipped slightly Friday at the Line 5 news, undoing some of the gains made Thursday when, after five years of reviews, Minnesota’s pollution control agency and Department of Natural Resources announced a swath of approvals for Line 3 that pave the way for federal permit decisions.
Company vice-president Leo Golden called the decision "a big day for Line 3 in Minnesota.”
Line 3, built in the 1960s, ships crude from an oil hub in Edmonton to U.S. Midwest refiners. It currently carries less oil than it was designed for because of age and corrosion. Replacing it would allow Enbridge to roughly double its capacity to 760,000 barrels a day.
With a report from Reuters
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