MPSC Reopens Record in Enbridge Line 5 Relocation, Replacement Application

The Michigan Public Service Commission ordered a record in Enbridge Energy’s LP application to be reopened to relocate the Line 5 pipeline to a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac on Thursday.

The record, stated the MPSC, was reopened to receive testimony, exhibits, documents, rebuttal and other relevant evidence needed for development of a full record, but no briefing will be allowed.

Specifically, the MPSC stated that the record is “…deficient on critical matters of engineering and safety, and additional evidence is needed for the Commission to complete its analysis.”

The MPSC has asked Enbridge to file information, documents and other information in order to create a complete record for tunnel engineering and safety, electrical equipment and risk of fire and/or explosion, and the safety of the dual pipelines, including leak detection systems and shut-down procedures.

Additionally, Enbridge must file reports and other information from prior agreements with Michigan and federal governments related to their operation of their current pipeline which had not been turned in on the record in their case before the commission.

This comes after Enbridge filed an application in April 2020 that looked for siting approval under Act 16 of 1929 to replace and relocate the Line 5 section into a new tunnel they would build underneath the lakebed in the Straits of Mackinac.

The MPSC deferred scheduling for testimony, exhibits and rebuttal evidence filing, including the opportunity for cross-examination, to the judge in the case. Thursday’s decision, stated the MPSC, does not impact the process or timeline involved for the consideration of needed permits, including permits under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In response to the decision made by the MPSC Thursday, Enbridge released the following statement:

“Enbridge will continue to work with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to address any remaining questions that Commissioners may have regarding the relocation of the Line 5 pipelines across the Straits of Mackinac into the Great Lakes Tunnel. We believe that extensive information documenting the engineering and safety of the Great Lakes Tunnel is already included in the MPSC record and led to the MPSC professional staff recommended approval of our application based on the thorough record that has been developed to date.

“The engineering and design of the Tunnel has been developed in accordance with the Tunnel Agreement entered with the State, and in close coordination with the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority to ensure its safety and design life. 

“Most notably, the MPSC decision today to continue Enbridge’s application review process has no impact on the existing pipelines across the Straits. Line 5 continues to operate safely in accordance with all federal safety standards administered by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Commission. The ongoing operation of Line 5 also remains protected by the Transit Pipelines Treaty, which was entered by the U.S. and Canadian Governments.

 “We remain committed to the MPSC process and seeing that the Great Lakes Tunnel is built.  It will make a safe pipeline safer, assure long term energy security and reliability, and support Michigan jobs and the economy.  Compared to the alternatives of truck, rail, or lake-going barges, pipelines are the safest and most efficient mode of transport for moving fuel. Placing the pipeline in the Great Lakes Tunnel better protects the Great Lakes.”