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Enbridge Deal Promises to Improve Oil Pipeline Safety

Paul Bohn, Esq.

Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian oil transport company Enbridge Inc. announced an agreement intended to improve the safety of the twin oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge. The pipeline is important to the tourist industry, as well as the Great Lakes environment. The public has voiced safety concerns, and Snyder is listening.

While Snyder has abstained from seeking the decommissioning of the pipeline, he is working with Enbridge to make sure the environment is protected from possible leaks. The 5-mile-long pipeline is part of Enbridge's Line 5 which carries around 23 million gallons of oil and liquid natural gas from Superior, Wisconsin, through Northern Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.

While Enbridge maintains that the pipeline is safe, environmental groups and some Michigan officials are concerned about recent disclosures of gaps in protective enamel coating and unsupported spaces beneath the pipes. Part of Snyder's agreement will temporarily halt the flow of oil during periods of storms causing dangerous waves. Additionally, alternate methods will be discussed for transporting the oil. Options include routing the existing pipelines, or new ones, through a newly constructed tunnel. Enbridge also promised to take measures to expedite response methods to potential spills by adding cameras or other devices to monitor activity.

Snyder has not ruled out decommissioning the pipelines, but he intends to review the results of the improvements made by Enbridge and make a final decision regarding the future of the pipelines in August. While skeptics are still concerned about the environmental impact these pipelines pose, they admit it is a step in the right direction.

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