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Michigan AG sues to shut down oil pipeline in Great Lakes

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan attorney general sued Thursday to shut down dual oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, saying they pose an “unacceptable risk.”

Dana Nessel’s decision came the same day she also sought to dismiss the pipeline operator Enbridge’s request for a ruling on the legality of a deal it struck last year with former Gov. Rick Snyder to put replacement pipes in a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

“I have consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes,” she said in a written statement.

Nessel said she acted after it had become clear talks were stalling between Enbridge and current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat.

“The continued operation of Line 5 presents an extraordinary, unreasonable threat to the public because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits,” Nessel said.

The pipelines are part of Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural-gas liquids daily between the city of Superior and Sarnia, Ontario.

Whitmer ordered her administration not to puruse the tunnel plan after Nessel had said authorizing legislation enacted in December was in violation of the state constitution.

Enbridge insists the twin pipes, which have been in place since 1953, are in sound condition and could operate indefinitely. But the company, out of Calgary, Alberta, said it is willing to install a tunnel in bedrock 100 feet beneath the lakebed and to foot estimated $500 million bill to eliminate virtually any possibility of a leak.

Talks broke down earlier this month. Whitmer was pushing to finish the tunnel in two years and Enbridge was insisting the project could not be done before 2024.

The Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the company needed time to evaluate Nessel’s suit but was disappointed the state had chosen not to accept an offer to advance talks on the tunnel project. Shutting down Line 5, he said, would result in a “serious disruption” of the energy market.

“We remain open to discussions with the governor, and we hope we can reach an agreement outside of court,” he said. “Enbridge is deeply committed to being part of Michigan’s future. We believe the Straits tunnel is the best way to protect the community and the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.”

Opponents contend Enbridge’s refusal to shut down the pipeline until the tunnel is completed means the straits area would be endangered for at least another five years. They point to a vessel anchor strike in April 2018 that dented both pipes while damaging three nearby electric cables, which leaked 800 gallons of insulating mineral oil.

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