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WEC - Western Engineered Containment

Michigan looks at options to address spill risk of Enbridge’s underwater pipeline

CALGARY — Michigan has released a report looking at how to deal with the spill risk of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs exposed underwater in a strait between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

The report Thursday by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems found that building new pipelines around the Great Lakes would cost between US$2 billion and US$4 billion depending on the route. Barges and trucks were discounted as options because of the logistical constraints of trying to handle the 86 million litres of petroleum products per day currently shipped on the line.

An anchor catching the pipeline was identified as the most likely cause of a spill. The report said replacing the exposed 1953 pipeline with a US$30-million underwater trench or US$150-million tunnel for the more than six-kilometre crossing would either minimize or make negligible the risks to the line.

Shutting down the pipeline would lead to disruptions for Enbridge and the refineries it supplies, with the report estimating Michigan residents would pay $121 million a year more for gasoline and other refined products, while Enbridge would be on the hook for $212 million in abandonment charges.

The report estimates that the cost of a spill would run between US$100 million and US$200 million. Modelling showed a spill on average would affect about 32 kilometres of shoreline.

Enbridge (TSX:ENB) said in a statement that it remains committed to protecting the Great Lakes, but needs time to review and assess the findings before making specific comments.

Michigan said it has not made any decisions on how to proceed with a risk analysis, but is now accepting public comments on the report and will release a final report on alternatives in the fall.

The State's attorney general called Thursday for a "specific and definite timetable" to decommission the existing pipeline, with the tunnel cited as one replacement option.

"The safety and security of our Great Lakes is etched in the DNA of every Michigan resident, and the final decision on Line 5 needs to include a discussion with those that rely on propane for heating their homes, and depend on the pipeline for employment," said Schuette.

"One thing is certain: the next steps we take should be for the long term protection of the Great Lakes."


With files from AP

The Canadian Press

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