Groups want tougher action on pipeline

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) – Some environmental groups are asking Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to get state government more directly involved in efforts to determine the condition of an oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac and to guard against spills.

More than a dozen organizations signed a letter contending Snyder has the power to demand answers from Enbridge Energy Partners LP about the line, which was laid in 1953. It is part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 runs through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac and winding up in Sarnia, Ontario.

The line divides into two 20-inch pipes beneath the straits at depths reaching 270 feet and carries nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. The 5-mile-wide straits area, which links Lakes Michigan and Huron, is ecologically sensitive and a major tourist draw.

“To date, the position of the state has been that they don’t have jurisdiction to do much but can encourage a review” by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said Jim Olson, president of FLOW, based in Traverse City. “What has been missing for 60 years is the state’s assertion of its authority as trustee of the bottomlands and the waters of the Great Lakes.”

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said, “We appreciate and share the concern expressed in this letter for protecting Michigan’s waters. That’s exactly why our administration, in coordination and cooperation with the attorney general, has taken multiple steps to date, including the formation of a special task force to look at these very issues.”

The state attorney general’s office and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality posed a lengthy series of questions to Enbridge about the pipeline in April.