State, Michigan Tech sign contract for Line 5 risk analysis




Jan. 12 2018

Nick Assendelft, MAE,, 517-284-8300
Andrea Bitely, AG’s Office,, 517-373-8060
Tiffany Brown, MDEQ,, 517-284-6716
Ed Golder, DNR,, 517-284-6241


State, Michigan Tech sign contract for Line 5 risk analysis

LANSING, Mich. – The State of Michigan today reached a contract agreement with Michigan Technological University to have a team led by professor Dr. Guy Meadows perform a risk analysis on Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

Dr. Meadows, director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech, and his team from public and private universities are expected to complete the risk study by September. The analysis will evaluate Enbridge’s liability for a worst-case-scenario pipeline spill, including the impact such a spill would have on Michigan’s economy and environment.

“The Straits of Mackinac is perhaps the most dynamically complex region of the Great Lakes,” said Dr. Meadows. “I am glad to have had the opportunity to study the region over the past several years, and to be able to apply that knowledge to this equally complex request from the State.”

Among the experts on Dr. Meadows’ team are those from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University, Oakland University, Grand Valley State University, North Dakota State University and Loyola University in Chicago.

Dr. Meadows has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University and a PhD in marine science from Purdue University. He was a professor of physical oceanography for 35 years at the University of Michigan. His primary research interests are in geophysical fluid dynamics with an emphasis on environmental forecasting and full-scale, Great Lakes and coastal ocean experimental hydrodynamics.

The Agency for Energy (MAE), Attorney General’s Office (AG), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) signed the contract with Michigan Tech.

“It is vitally important that we bring sound science to bear on the question of the impacts of a potential oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said. “This analysis will help us determine the best path forward as we strive to protect our world-class natural resources in this environmentally sensitive part of the Great Lakes.”

“I am encouraged that we were able to act on the unanimous recommendation from the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board and retain Michigan Technological University Professor Dr. Guy Meadows to conduct the independent risk analysis," said DEQ Director C. Heidi Grether, co-chair of the PSAB. "I am excited to work with Dr. Meadows and his colleagues and look forward to seeing the risk analysis results and how we can use them to further protect our Great Lakes.”

Among the topics the independent risk analysis is to include are:

  • The environmental fate and transport of oil or other products released from the Straits pipelines in a worst-case scenario.
  • How long it would take to contain and clean up the worst-case release.
  • The short- and long-term public health and safety impacts.
  • The short- and long-term ecological impacts.
  • Potential measures to restore the affected natural resources and mitigate the ecological impacts.
  • Estimate the amount of natural resource damages, the governmental costs, and all other economic damages – public and private – that would result from a worst-case release.

“This gives us a fresh start on the risk analysis of Line 5,” said Valerie Brader, executive director of MAE and outgoing co-chair of the PSAB. “With the data we have available and the expertise we have within the state, I firmly believe we can get a strong, independent analysis in a timely fashion from Dr. Meadows and his team.”

Following Brader’s announcement this week that she is resigning her position with the State, Gov. Rick Snyder named Creagh to replace her as co-chair of the PSAB.

Dr. Meadows has resigned his position on the PSAB. At the Board’s December meeting, he detailed his proposal for the risk analysis

Also today, the State named these PSAB members to the Risk Analysis Advisory Team: Chris Kelenske, commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division; Homer Mandoka, chairman of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and president of the United Tribes of Michigan; Jennifer McKay, policy director for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; Jeffrey Pillon, director of Energy Assurance for National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO); Jerome Popiel, Incident Management and Preparedness advisor, Ninth Coast Guard District; and Brad Shamla, vice president of U.S. operations at Enbridge. The team, along with the state’s Technical Advisory Team, will be available as a resource to Dr. Meadows’ team.  

The State in August 2016 commissioned a risk analysis and alternatives analysis by two independent contractors. Det Norske Veritas was chosen to do the risk analysis, but the contract was terminated by the State in June 2017 due to an apparent conflict of interest. Dynamic Risk was hired to conduct the alternatives analysis and its final report can be found at the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines website.

Both analysis reports will be paid for by funds in an escrow account the state controls and which was set up in August 2016. The money originally came from Enbridge Energy Limited Partners, which owns and operates Line 5, but the company has no say in how the money is spent.

Built in 1953, Line 5 is 645 miles long and transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Below the Straits, the pipeline lies on the lake bottom within an easement issued in 1953 by the State of Michigan. 

The PSAB, created by Executive Order 2015-12, is charged with making recommendations or advising the State on pipeline issues. It also advises state agencies on matters related to pipeline routing, construction, operation, and maintenance, as well as ensuring public transparency. While the PSAB advises the state on matters concerning energy pipelines, it does not have decision-making authority and it does not control the contract administration. 

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