Michigan, Enbridge agree to build $350M to $500M underground pipeline
- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced that the state had reached a deal with Canadian energy transportation company Enbridge to replace the Line 5 oil pipeline segment that runs above ground across the Straits of Mackinac with an underground, multi-use utility tunnel. Enbridge has agreed to pay all design and construction costs for the $350 million to $500 million project, as well as for maintenance and operations for as many as 99 years.
- The agreement, which must be approved by the Mackinac Bridge Authority, would require, among other things, that Enbridge maintain personnel in the Straits; be able to execute an emergency shutdown of the tunnel in 15 minutes; provide a new radar system that can furnish real-time wave-height information; set aside $1.8 billion for emergency oil-spill response, not only in the Straits but along the entire 645 miles of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline; install a camera system to monitor ships for anchor-dropping violations; additional safety measures at 13 Line 5 water crossings and 68 other areas of the pipeline; and guarantee that the tunnel will never transport heavy crude. The bridge authority would own the tunnel and then lease it back to Enbridge.
- The tunnel, which will take an estimated seven to 10 years to complete, could also house utility lines for services like broadband and electrical. According to Snyder, the project eliminates "nearly every risk of an oil leak in the Straits," providing additional safeguards for the Great Lakes without having to invest taxpayer dollars.
The potential for a pipeline leak or spill is one of the issues that typically sparks protests from environmentalists and those living or doing business nearby. This is what brought activists out in droves from the spring of 2016 through February 2017 in an attempt to stop the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline from passing beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota. The pipeline's route under Lake Oahe in the Dakotas, as well as under the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, drew criticism from those who feared that a leak could contaminate the waters.
Amid protests, a federal judge allowed construction to continue and the pipeline to continue to operate even though the pipeline developer, Energy Transfer Partners, and the Army Corps of Engineers were ordered to conduct another environmental review. According to the Corps, the pipeline poses little risk because it's buried 100 feet underground.
Pipeline contractors may also take some heat from protestors when it comes to participating in these types of construction projects.
- Office of Gov. Rick Snyder Agreement paves way for Enbridge to permanently shut down, replace Line 5 in Straits of Mackinac
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