Energy Chief Says Enbridge Downplayed Damage to Line 5 Safety Coating

Photos show worn-off spaces originally reported as the size of a Band-Aid are close to a square-foot in diameter.

National Wildlife Federation

Michigan’s energy chief says damage to the protective coating on an oil and gas pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac was worse than initially reported.

Valerie Brader directs the Michigan Agency for Energy, and she co-chairs the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board. She says Enbridge Energy initially reported small sections of Line Five’s protective coating were accidentally worn off down to the metal while underwater safety anchors were being installed. The company turned over photographs of the damage.

And Brader says the places where metal is showing are much larger than Enbridge said they were, and she says company was too slow to repair the damage.       

“I’m just disappointed that something that was described to the public as the size of a Band-Aid is, instead, obviously much different and much more serious,” she said following a report to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

The photos show the worn-off spaces are close to a square-foot in diameter.

The worn-off spaces were discovered during an inspection to find biological threats. Brater says the delay in addressing the problem is inexcusable.

“If a person did it, you should have known when it occurred and it should have been fixed immediately,” she said.

Enbridge says repairs and further inspections of Line 5 should begin next week.

This is part of a statement from Enbridge:

“This continued work underscores the effectiveness of Enbridge’s monitoring and maintenance program, which continues to exceed federal standards and reflects Enbridge’s commitment to Michigan and safe pipeline operations. Enbridge is proud that its safety management program worked as intended to identify and address promptly a concern and that the twin pipelines remain in excellent condition.”

The pipeline safety board meets again Monday, and could hear from Enbridge on its pipeline plans.