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Public Meetings Start Over New Report On Enbridge’s Line 5

Cheyna Roth

New public meetings began Thursday about the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline

Several state agencies and the authors of a report suggesting alternatives to the pipeline gave a presentation and took questions.  

The pipeline sends oil and natural gas across sections of lower and upper Michigan. 

A report created by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. was released earlier this week.  It gives six choices for dealing with the decades-old pipeline. 

Protestors, who gathered ahead of the meeting, said there’s only one option – shut it down.

“Is not serving the public but is endangering drinking water for millions of people,” said Jessica Fujan of Food and Water Watch.  “We want to see Line 5 shut down and a transition to 100 percent renewable energy.”

David Holtz is chair of the Michigan Sierra Club, an environmental organization. 

“You know the reality is that Line 5 is going to be decommissioned,” he said.  “It’s either going to happen before there’s a rupture.  Or after.”

Before opening the floor to questions, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. gave a dense presentation on the report. 

James Mihellis the chief engineer at Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc.  He said, contrary to what a lot of people say, corrosion isn’t the biggest threat to the pipeline. 

Mihell said a dominant threat is something more random and unrelated to the line’s age.  Ship anchors.  Ships could drop and drag their anchors over the line.

“The threat is that we can get a pipeline lodged in-between the flukes and the shank,” Mihell said.  “And the fact of the matter is that you can’t stop an 80-thousand ton cargo vessel with a 20-inch pipeline.”

Some options mentioned in the report include rerouting the line, installing new pipes in tunnels or trenches, closing the line, and leaving the line as it is.  But it does not give any recommendation about what option the state should take. 

After nearly two hours of presentation by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Fujan was still frustrated.

“Months of analysis and thousands of pages of reporting make me believe that there should have been some conclusive and decisive actions to come out of this study and I don’t feel like we’re walking away with that today,” she said.

The state was also supposed to get a separate risk analysis report.  That contract was terminated after a conflict of interest was discovered with the firm that was hired. 

Enbridge Energy sent out a statementin response to the report and presentation.  It says:

"The report by Dynamic Risk represents thoughtful, thorough, and expert consideration of key issues around Line 5’s construction and condition, as well as the safety, feasibility and cost of alternative methods to transport energy to the Great Lakes region. While there are some conclusions that require further review, overall the report is comprehensive."

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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