“As Attorney General of the State of Michigan, one of my highest priorities is protecting the Great Lakes, our most precious natural resources. The Great Lakes literally define our state and are the lifeblood of our environment and economy.” – Attorney General Bill Schuette
The Great Lakes define Michigan’s borders, but they are so much more than that. The Great Lakes are the lifeblood of our state, boosting our economy and providing drinking water and adventure to so many. Their preservation is up to all of us, and we all have a responsibility to protect them. The inland lakes, rivers and streams that flow into the Lakes must also be protected from pollution to ensure a safe ecological system for the entire Great Lakes Basin.
Together with environmental and government leaders across Michigan, Attorney General Schuette is working to prevent harmful oil spills and leaks in our Great Lakes.
Under the Mackinac Straits, a pair of more than sixty-year-old pipelines is resting on the lakebed below some of the most powerful currents in the world. The pipes are carrying petroleum products that could devastate the Michigan way of life should they leak or rupture.
Throughout Michigan are other pipelines that move petroleum products throughout our State. The safety and security of these pipelines is crucial to ensuring that our Great Lakes are here for generations to come.
Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force
In order to more fully address concerns related to the Straits Pipelines and the broader issue of other major petroleum pipelines in the State of Michigan, Attorney General Schuette and the Director of the DEQ convened and co-chaired the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force in 2014. The Task Force was comprised of the heads of several state agencies including the Attorney General, the Departments of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources, State Police, and Transportation, as well the Office of the Great Lakes and the Public Service Commission.
The goal of the Task Force was to identify and recommend actions within state government to protect the public health, safety and welfare of Michigan citizens and the environment related to the transportation of liquid petroleum products through major pipelines within the state.
While the Task Force had a specific focus on the Straits Pipelines, it also looked more broadly at the major pipelines used to transport crude oil and other liquid petroleum products through and within Michigan. The Task Force met with a diverse group of interested parties that included environmental and other public interest groups, members of the energy industry, federal regulators, and academics and technical experts. It also held two government-to-government consultations with Michigan’s tribal governments, and received many written comments from the public. In addition, staff from the involved agencies spent many hours researching, gathering, and analyzing information.
In July, 2015, the Task Force issued its Report, detailing its findings and making thirteen recommendations, including four recommendations specific to the Straits Pipelines. The other recommendations applied state-wide.
Implementing Task Force Recommendations on the Straits Pipelines
Attorney General Schuette, in conjunction with the DEQ, DNR, and Michigan Agency for Energy has implemented or is in the process of implementing each of the four Task Force recommendations on the Straits Pipelines:
1. Prevent the transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits Pipelines. In September, 2015, the State secured a written agreement with Enbridge preventing the transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits Pipelines.
2. Require an independent risk analysis and adequate financial assurance for the Straits Pipelines.
3. Require an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing Straits Pipelines.
The State, with advice and input from the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (which was established in response to one of the other recommendations of the Task Force Report) has developed Scopes of Work and Requests for Information and Proposals (RFPs) for an Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines and an Independent Alternatives Analysis for the Straits Pipelines. The RFPs were issued in February, 2016. The State is currently reviewing the responses received from several potential contractors and expects to complete its review in June, 2016.
4. Obtain additional information from Enbridge relating to the Straits Pipelines.
On March 11, 2016, the Attorney General and the Directors of the DEQ and DNR requested additional information from Enbridge relating to the Straits Pipelines, including documents related to issues identified since the completion of the Task Force Report, as well as actual copies of documents that were referenced in Enbridge’s June 30, 2014 response to the State’s earlier information request but only made available to the State through a read-only web portal. The latter were identified in Attachment B to the March 11, 2016 letter.
- Attorney General Letter to Enbridge
- Attachment A - Letter to Enbridge
- Attachment B - Letter to Enbridge
On April 8, 2016, Enbridge responded to the State’s information request. A copy of the letter is posted here.
Enbridge also provided copies of specific types of documents requested by the State, organized into two large folders: Exhibits A and B, corresponding, respectively, to Attachments A and B to the State’s March 11, 2016 letter.
Plains LPG Pipelines crossing the St. Clair River
Under federal law, a company proposing to operate a pipeline crossing the international border must obtain a permit from the United States Department of State.
In January, 2016, the State Department announced that it was considering a request by Plains LPG to modify a previously issued federal permit for two 98-year old pipelines crossing the US- Canadian border at the St. Clair River to allow them to transport crude oil. The Attorney General, other state and federal officials, environmental organizations, and private citizens submitted comments strongly opposing that request.
Faced with this overwhelming opposition, the pipeline owner withdrew its request.