Citing potential for propane crisis, Gov. Snyder declines to take action on Line 5 resolutions




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

Jan. 29, 2018


Citing potential for propane crisis, Gov. Snyder declines to take action on Line 5 resolutions

Will seek extension for decision date on pipeline’s future to Sept. 30

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today sent a letter to the members of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) responding to three resolutions put forward at the Board’s meeting in December and dealing with the operation of the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

“I appreciate the opportunity to hear the advice of many members of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board and would like to take this opportunity to respond to all of you regarding the subject matter of the resolutions,” Snyder said in a letter to PSAB members.

Snyder also said that based on the timing of the completion of the Risk Analysis by Dr. Guy Meadows of Michigan Technological University, he was going to discuss with Enbridge modifying the date for a final agreement to be reached on Line 5 – or the state deciding to take another path – from Aug. 15 to Sept. 30.

An agreement announced in November between the State and Enbridge Energy improves environmental protection for the Great Lakes and other state waterways with specific actions Enbridge must meet to make certain there is a proper level of examination, immediate safety improvements, and increased transparency for Line 5. The agreement also sets deadlines for Enbridge to report its findings to the state while the state moves toward a final decision on the future of the Straits pipelines.

Snyder explained his rationale behind the decision to reject the three resolutions:

Resolution 1: Shut down Line 5 operations in the Straits until all areas of the dual pipelines can be inspected for gaps in the external coating and all the gaps are repaired.

Snyder’s response: “As a practical matter, such further inspections and repairs cannot be completed until the summer of 2018. Review of the recent hydrotest results of Line 5 through the Straits indicated there is not a risk of imminent failure, and that test was done when these coating gaps existed. I do not believe an immediate and extended shutdown of the pipeline in the middle of the winter is a proper approach that safeguards the health and welfare of Michigan citizens. An immediate and unexpected shutdown of the pipeline for several months would very likely create a propane supply crisis.

“It is highly unlikely that Enbridge would agree to voluntarily suspend pipeline operation for months, pending further external coating inspections and repairs. I am also unaware of the basis to carry out the recommendation that Enbridge be required to supply propane to the public if the pipeline ceases operation.”

Resolution 2: That the State seek to revise the “Sustained Adverse Weather Conditions” portion of the November 27, 2017 Agreement.

Snyder’s response: “There was no requirement for a shutdown due to any weather conditions prior to the November 27, 2017 Agreement. Given the amount of negotiating time and effort that went into that specific provision, a request to reopen that provision would be extremely unlikely to result in an agreement to move in the direction envisioned by the resolution.”

Resolution 3: Michigan should undertake a more thorough assessment of Michigan-focused alternatives, including alternative pipeline capacity re-routing options and ways to supply propane and oil to meet Michigan’s needs currently met by Line 5.

Snyder’s response: “State agency staff are working to independently verify key Michigan-centric data and assumptions contained within the Final Alternatives Analysis Report, setting up consultations with key customers to discuss how a potential shut down of the Dual Pipelines would impact their Michigan operations, and are gathering additional information about the logistical capabilities of major oil and propane terminals around Michigan. In addition, the State is considering the possibility of obtaining the services of outside transportation consultants to better define the feasibility and costs of alternatives to meeting Michigan propane and Michigan-produced crude oil transportation needs that would not depend upon Line 5.

“With respect to the broader suggestions that the State conduct a detailed analysis “on the public need for Line 5 in Michigan” and “a more robust study of alternative pipeline capacity to reroute the portion of Line 5’s flow dedicated to Michigan’s needs”, the resolution is not clear as to what is being proposed. In particular, it is not clear: (a) who would conduct these analyses, (b) how the scope of the work would be defined, (c) what it would cost, (d) who would pay for it, and (e) how it would be completed by the June 25, 2018 deadline proposed in the resolution.”

Finally, Snyder pointed out that it is incorrect that all three resolutions had passed at the December PSAB meeting. He said the Executive Order creating the Board requires a majority vote of the serving members, and none of the three resolutions met that threshold. There were 15 PSAB members in attendance and none of the resolutions had more than seven “yes” votes.

A copy of Snyder’s letter to the Board can be found here.

Among the actions outlined in the Line 5 agreement announced in November is studying the feasibility of a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for a new pipeline or the existing Line 5 dual pipelines, assessing technologies to better monitor the pipeline in the Straits, using technologies to allow faster detection and more immediate response should a spill occur in the Straits, implementing measures to mitigate a potential vessel anchor strike on Line 5, replacing a portion of Line 5 that crosses the St. Clair River with a new pipe in a tunnel under the river, and putting in place measures to minimize the likelihood of an oil spill at every Line 5 water crossing in Michigan.

Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline that begins in Superior, Wisconsin, and terminates in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.

Keep up on PSAB activities by signing up for its listserv.

# # #