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Judge continues Line 5 operation restrictions, orders information from Enbridge

 Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline. (Enbridge Image)
Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline. (Enbridge Image) (WLUC)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:24 PM EDT
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After a lengthy hearing Tuesday on Attorney General Dana Nessel’s motion for a preliminary injunction related to the recently discovered damage to Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac, Ingham County Circuit Court ordered continued restrictions on the operation of Line 5 and required Enbridge Energy to promptly and fully disclose all relevant information and data to the State.

Judge James S. Jamo’s order amends the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by the Attorney General’s office and issued by the Court on

. The new TRO temporarily prohibits Enbridge from operating the east leg of twin pipelines that comprise Line 5 until the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA) completes its investigation of the matter, and until Enbridge provides the state and PHMSA necessary information, completes any needed repairs and until further order by the court.

In a statement, Enbridge had the following to say:

"Today the Ingham County Circuit Court of the State of Michigan amended its temporary restraining order requiring Enbridge to temporarily shut down the west segment of the Line 5 dual pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac. "Enbridge will now begin safely restarting the west segment and anticipates operations will soon return to normal. Pursuant to the court order, we will conduct an inline inspection tool run on the west segment and share our findings with the State in accordance with the court’s orders. "The east segment of Line 5 will remain shut down as we work with our safety regulator, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, to ensure all of the safety assessments are complete and data provided prior to restarting the east segment. "Enbridge is committed to sharing this information with the State of Michigan to keep them informed regarding our inspections of the east segment. "Enbridge’s Line 5 has served Michiganders safely without incident at the Straits crossing for more than 65 years. We remain willing to work with the State going forward to address issues of concern about the safety of Line 5 and its ultimate replacement with The Great Lakes Tunnel that will contain a new section of pipeline. Enbridge is currently seeking permit approval of the tunnel which, upon completion, will make a safe pipeline even safer."

Damage to the east leg of Line 5 was reported to State officials June 18, which caused Enbridge to shut down both lines, but it then unilaterally reactivated the west leg on June 20 without alerting the State.

Today’s court order also allows Enbridge to restart the west leg for the purpose of conducting an In Line Inspection (ILI) of that pipeline, and requires Enbridge to provide the results on the area of interest to the State and the Court within seven days of restarting operations of that line. The order also requires Enbridge to provide all other information requested by the State.

“Today’s Court decision allows the State to receive the vital information surrounding this incident that we need to complete an informed analysis of the damage and evaluate the threat this pipeline poses to our environment if left to operate in its current state,” Nessel said. “A breach of the Line 5 pipeline or a similar incident would result in devastating consequences for a wide range of industries and countless Michiganders. The long-term risk this pipeline poses to not only Michigan, but the Great Lakes region, cannot be taken lightly."

The Court based its decision on the grounds argued by the Attorney General – the requirements of the 1953 easement mandating that Enbridge at all times exercise the “due care” of a reasonably prudent person for the safety and welfare of all persons and of all public and private property.

The Court stated that today’s order would remain in effect until it issues a full opinion and order on the Attorney General’s motion for preliminary injunction, which seeks continued suspension of the pipeline operations until certain conditions are met.

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