Commission gives Enbridge okay to replace Line 5

An Enbridge Gas photo of workers inspecting Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge has cleared a hurdle to replace Line 5 in the Straights of Mackinac.

The Michigan Public Services Commission said Friday there is a public need for the replacement of Line 5 – including that “without the pipeline’s operation, suppliers would need to use higher-risk and costlier alternative fuel supply sources and transportation for Michigan customers, including those who use propane for home heating.”

It added in a news release that replacing the dual pipes which are close to the surface will help protect the ecological, natural and cultural resources of the Great Lakes since the current pipes are exposed to the elements and risks including ship anchor strikes.

“The Commission found, and there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the replacement project.”

The project has faced much opposition, including from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who filed legal action to stop use of the pipeline which was built in 1954 and brings product to Sarnia’s petrochemical industry. A number of US Indigenous and environmental groups intervened at the Michigan Public Service Commission’s hearing.

The commission, in a news release today, said Enbridge still needs the required government permits and approvals and can’t make any “significant changes to the rout and locations” of the replacement. It also says no other utilities can use the underwater tunnel without applying to the commission.

Enbridge must also submit a detailed risk management plan to the state .

The application to replace Line 5 with a new 30 inch pipeline in an underwater tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac was filed April 2020.

The 1,030 km interstate pipeline that originates in Superior, Wisc., spans Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, crosses the Straits and then spans the Lower Peninsula before terminating near Sarnia. Line 5 transports light crude oil and natural gas liquids, including propane used for home heating in Michigan, Ontario and Quebec. Its average annual capacity is 540,000 barrels per day.