Conflict of interest mars Michigan oil pipeline review

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said a review of an oil pipeline in the Great Lakes was supposed to be independent, but that's not what happened. Photo courtesy of the office of the attorney general.

June 23 (UPI) — Michigan’s attorney general said the state cut ties with a firm probing risks on a Great Lakes oil pipeline because of ties to Enbridge, the operating company.

Pipeline operator Enbridge is facing push back from residents in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula worried about the integrity of Line 5, but the company said it felt it was in as good a condition as when it was installed.

The state said it terminated a contract with Det Norske Veritas, which was preparing a risk analysis for the pipeline, because it’s working on another project for Enbridge.

“The evaluations of Line 5 were supposed to be independent, not tainted by outside opinions or information, but that’s not what happened,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement.

Two of the state’s Great Lakes intersect at the Mackinac Straits, creating a turbulent maritime environment. A Michigan pipeline task force requires Enbridge to carry full insurance, create a public pipeline safety board and disclose safety reports.

Last year, State Rep. Candice Miller introduced the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act, which would’ve forced the closure of the company’s Line 5 pipeline system. If the pipeline burst, she said, more than 700 miles of the shoreline of the Great Lakes could be affected.

In March, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Mich., introduced legislation targeting Line 5, a 64-year-old pipeline system. A leak from the pipeline, he said, would have devastating consequences for the regional economy, which relies heavily on tourism and fishing.

Enbridge is the operator of a broader regional oil pipeline system. A rupture from the company’s Line 6b in 2010 in southern Michigan triggered one of the largest inland oil spills in the history of the U.S. oil industry.

Det Norske had no comment on the termination of a contract vetted last year. The state has a contract with a second company to provide a separate report on Line 5. That company, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, presents its findings to the public July 6.


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