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Beth Wallace

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U.S. Senators receive jibber jabber from pipeline safety agency

U.S. Senators receive jibber jabber from pipeline safety agency

The current conditions at the Straits of Mackinac. Proof enough that all efforts should be focused on preventing a spill because any response will fail.

The current conditions at the Straits of Mackinac. Proof enough that all efforts should be focused on preventing a spill because any response will fail.

Last month I thanked Senator’s Durbin, Stabenow and Levin for taking the first steps needed to ensure the Great Lakes are protected from a 60-year-old oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac owned by Enbridge Energy.

The Senators wrote a letter to the federal agency that oversees pipeline safety (PHMSA) basically demanding transparency on the integrity of the Mackinac Pipeline.

This request is not just lip service by the Senators to appease concerns of their constituents. Sadly, our region (and frankly the nation) has been plagued with examples on why we should be concerned about this pipeline. The largest example being the massive rupture from Enbridge’s Line 6B three years ago, which is still being cleaned up to this day. If you want a quick glimpse into the history of this company in our region, check out this video (FF to the 1 min mark).

Despite the clear need for overall pipeline safety reform, this past summer Enbridge  took steps to increase pressure on the 60-year-old pipeline, through the Straits of Mackinac, so they can export more oil into eastern Canada. The most alarming piece to this story is how little PHMSA seemed to require of Enbridge in order for the increase in pressure. As far as I’ve been able to uncover, the only testing PHMSA required of Enbridge is two small hydrotests in sections of the pipeline nowhere near the Straits crossing.

Well, PHMSA is (yet again) in a position where they feel the need to defend themselves.  You can read the jibber jabber response to the Senators here or feel free to skip ahead to my top 5 takeaways:

  1. PHMSA underscores they have had to hold Enbridge’s hand on pipeline safety for the past 3 years and they are working with Enbridge to continue required improvements.
  2. In order for the public to see any level of detail on those improvements, PHMSA will need a Freedom of Information Act request. Thank you very much!
  3. PHMSA is talking with the spill response agencies and they’ve got this..don’t you worry.
  4. PHMSA does ‘t really care about the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) on this 60-year-old pipeline because Congress told them in 2011 they don’t have to… gotcha there.
  5. PHMSA doesn’t exactly have all the information requested so we’re going to spend the next couple months asking for it from Enbridge..we’ll get back to you.

As you might have picked up, this isn’t my first rodeo. The National Wildlife Federation has submitted a second FOIA to PHMSA for information proving the integrity of this pipeline, which hasn’t even gotten a response other than PHMSA needing more time.

If this 60-year-old pipeline just increased in pressure, and PHMSA just reviewed information verifying the pipeline’s safety, what is the hold up?

More to come.

Underwater footage of the Mackinac Pipeline suspended across the Straits. By NWF

Underwater footage of the Mackinac Pipeline suspended across the Straits. By NWF