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Enbridge will restart the Line 5 pipeline after it won the approval of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It also won a case at the Michigan Circuit Court that greenlit the restart of work on the pipeline.
The Canadian pipeline operator proposed the replacement of a section of the Line 5 pipes with new ones a few years ago, and the Michigan Legislature approved it in late 2018. Enbridge’s proposal was motivated by safety concerns: the pipes in that section were 65 years old.
However, the replacement project sparked the outrage of environmentalists and Native American communities in the area. The opponents argued that a proposed tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to house the pipeline will increase the risk of oil spills in a basin that provides drinking water to some 40 million people.
Lawsuits followed the opposition, but eventually a court ruled in favor of the pipeline builder despite the fight that the new Michigan legislature put up to cancel the project approved by the previous one. The fight included a lawsuit filed against Enbridge by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the suspension of construction work on the underwater tunnel following an opinion by Attorney General Dana Nessel.
This opposition caused the suspension of work on the western leg of the project. Work on the east leg of the pipeline was suspended following damage. Now, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has ruled it is safe to proceed with the work on that section of the pipeline.
“The decision to allow the restart of the east segment of Line 5 is very positive for the many residents and businesses in Michigan and the Great Lakes region who depend on the energy Line 5 delivers,” said Vern Yu, Enbridge vice president and president of liquids pipelines. “Enbridge will continue to focus on the safe operation of the dual Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac, ensuring the Great Lakes are protected while also reliably delivering the energy and feedstock that helps to fuel Michigan's and the region's economy.”
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.