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AG Nessel files restraining order, temporary injunction against Enbridge after company discloses damage to Line 5

The Idaho Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether the Legislature can transfer 18 technology employees and $2.7 million from the superintendent of public instruction's office to the state board of education. (Source: MGN image)
The Idaho Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether the Legislature can transfer 18 technology employees and $2.7 million from the superintendent of public instruction's office to the state board of education. (Source: MGN image)(KMVT)
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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Monday, Attorney General Dana Nessel filed motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction related to Enbridge’s disclosure late last week of significant damage to an anchor support on the east leg of the Line 5 oil pipeline.

Line 5 lies open on the floor of the Straits of Mackinac pumping nearly 23 million gallons of oil each day through two aging pipelines in the heart of the Great Lakes. The motions were filed in the parties’ ongoing case, Nessel v Enbridge Energy LP, et al., Case No. 19-474, currently pending before the Honorable James S. Jamo, in the Ingham County Circuit Court.

Enbridge reported the damage on Thursday, June 18, shutting down both the east and west legs for inspection. In a June 19th letter, Governor Whitmer asked Enbridge to provide the State with all of the information in its possession about the damage, including pictures, video, and engineering reports. The Governor requested that all digital information be provided within 24 hours of her request.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the below statement following Attorney General Nessel actions against Enbridge:

“I fully support Attorney General’s action today on Line 5. Enbridge resumed operation of the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac without any explanation of the cause for the damage to the pipeline structure or plan to prevent it from happening again. Moreover, Enbridge has not timely complied with the state’s request for full and complete information and resumed operation without even consultation. This brazen disregard for the people of Michigan and the safety and well-being of our Great Lakes is unacceptable.”

Enbridge not only failed to provide the requested information but on June 20, 2020, the company unilaterally reactivated the west leg of the pipeline without even providing the State with an opportunity to first discuss it.

In response, Governor Whitmer sent another letter to Enbridge requesting that it immediately shut down the pipeline until the matter could be investigated, assessed and preventive measures put in place. The Governor also requested a full report from Enbridge as to the cause of the damage and the measures Enbridge would put in place to prevent the harm from happening in the future. Once the state, or a third party selected by the state, has reviewed the information, the Governor advised Enbridge a discussion would occur as to when normal operations could resume.

Enbridge didn’t provide any information on the damage until earlier today, when it sent brief reports on the east and west legs of the pipeline. Only a few pages long, the reports contained little content, few pictures, and left several critical questions unanswered, including the cause of the damage.

“It is evident by the pictures we’ve seen that there has been significant damage to an anchor support on the east leg of the pipeline. To date, Enbridge has provided no explanation of what caused this damage and a woefully insufficient explanation of the current condition and safety of the pipeline as a result of this damage,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “We cannot rely on Enbridge to act in the best interests of the people of this State so I am compelled to ask the Court to order them to.”

In her motion, the Attorney General asks the Court to order Enbridge to provide all of the information in its possession related to the nature, extent and causes of the newly-discovered damage to Line 5. She also requests that the Court order that operations of the pipeline be suspended until the State of Michigan has conducted a full review of the information provided with the assistance of independent experts.

“The State deserves to see all of the information in Enbridge’s possession about this significant incident and to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information provided,” Nessel said. “I will continue to use all the resources at my disposal to protect Michiganders from companies with an incentive to prioritize their own profits over the safety and well-being of our residents.”

Enbridge responded as follows:

"Enbridge believes the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction sought by the Attorney General of Michigan is legally unsupportable, unnecessary, and will be vigorously opposed by Enbridge.

"Enbridge understands the importance of the Great Lakes to the State and the need to protect the Straits, the environment and people. As part of its thorough maintenance and inspection program, Enbridge first noted a disturbance to an anchor support on the east leg last Thursday and immediately shut down both legs of the Line 5 dual pipelines crossing the Straits of Mackinac as a precautionary measure. The east leg pipeline remains shut down, while the west leg was restarted after a thorough review and consultation with our safety regulator.

“We have been working very closely with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to ensure it is able to assess the safety of the dual pipelines. This included informing them of our completion of Remote Operated Vehicle inspections of the west leg of the line, which confirmed there was no mechanical damage to the pipeline or any support-anchors. We have also provided engineering assessments and other materials to State officials.” said Vern Yu, Enbridge’s Executive Vice-President and President, Liquids Pipelines. “We continue to work with PHMSA to answer their questions about our assessments of the dual pipelines.”

"Line 5 is a critical source of 540,000 barrels per day of propane and crude oil supply for Michigan and surrounding areas that make up the regional supply network for the State, producing transportation fuels and consumer goods. Line 5 has operated reliably and safely in the Straits since 1953 and continues to do so today."

The filed documents are available below:

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