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Senators Stabenow and Levin Urge Transportation Department to Verify Safety of Enbridge Pipeline in Great Lakes

Wednesday, Dec 11

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) today urged the Department of Transportation to verify the safety of an Enbridge pipeline running through Great Lakes waters. Enbridge recently increased the amount of oil the 60-year old pipeline is carrying.

In a letter to the Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Senators noted that Enbridge Energy Partners' Line 5 pipeline recently began transporting an additional 2.1 million gallons of oil per day. That pipeline, which was built in 1953, passes along environmentally sensitive areas and beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which PHMSA has identified as a "high consequence area." If the aging pipeline were to leak or burst, it could have devastating effects on the Great Lakes ecosystem and the entire region's economy.

The Senators wrote: "Three years ago, Enbridge's Line 6B ruptured near the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. Nearly 843,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River, causing the largest inland oil spill in United States history.... If the pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac were to leak or burst, it could have devastating effects on the Great Lakes and the entire region's economy. The Great Lakes constitute 95% of the nation's surface fresh water supply and are directly connected to over 1.5 million jobs, with $62 billion in annual wages."

The full text of the letter follows:

December 11, 2013


The Honorable Cynthia I. Quarterman
Administrator
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
East Building, 2nd Floor
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590


Dear Administrator Quarterman:

We are writing in regards to PHMSA's recent approval of hydrostatic testing along Enbridge Energy Partners' Line 5 pipeline. As you know, Enbridge increased the amount of oil transported through Line 5 by an additional 50,000 barrels per day, equal to 2.1 million gallons per day.

This pipeline is 60 years old and runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. It passes inland along environmentally sensitive areas and beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which PHMSA has identified as a "high consequence area." The increase in oil transported adds pressure to the aging pipeline, which has undergone only a few upgrades since it was first installed in 1953. We are concerned that these changes could compromise the integrity of the pipeline. We are particularly concerned with the risks a leak or break in the pipe could pose to the Straits of Mackinac given this area's strong currents, variable water temperatures, and connections to both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Three years ago, Enbridge's Line 6B ruptured near the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. Nearly 843,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River, causing the largest inland oil spill in United States history. This oil spill severely affected local residents, the surrounding environment, and Michigan's economy. In fact, cleanup efforts are still underway.

If the pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac were to leak or burst, it could have devastating effects on the Great Lakes and the entire region's economy. The Great Lakes constitute 95% of the nation's surface fresh water supply and are directly connected to over 1.5 million jobs, with $62 billion in annual wages. Therefore, we ask that you provide us with answers to the following questions:

• We understand that PHMSA requested that Enbridge conduct various tests to ensure that the integrity of the pipeline would not be compromised with an increase in oil pressure.
Please provide a list and explanation of all tests that were executed, when and where the testing occurred, and if the tests were performed on the section of pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

• The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 requires pipeline operators or owners who own high consequence area pipelines to verify that their records accurately reflect the pipeline's physical and operational characteristics and the pipeline's established Maximum Allowable Operating Pressures (MAOP). Did Enbridge have fully updated MAOP records before it increased the pressure on Line 5? If so, please explain what testing methods Enbridge used to verify the MAOP of Line 5.

• What measures are in place to detect leaks on Line 5? Have remote-controlled shut-off valves or equivalent technology been installed? How quickly does PHMSA estimate that a leak could be stopped and resolved?

• Has Enbridge provided PHMSA with an updated emergency response plan? If so, how has the plan been updated? Was the Coast Guard involved in updating the plan? Who will have access to this plan? If available, please provide a copy of the updated emergency response plan.

Given the serious risks that an oil spill in this area could pose to the Great Lakes and the surrounding communities, we urge you to give prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to your reply. Thank you.

 

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