U.S. Federal Appeals Court Rules Enbridge Line 5 Spill Plan Adequate

By Jason Cockerham

(P&GJ) — A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that an oil-spill response plan for Enbridge's Line 5 oil pipeline crossing under the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan was adequate, reversing a previous decision from a lower court.

The lower court ruling had stated that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) approved the response plan without the company’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

A panel of three judges of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that ruling arguing the court misread the extent of the DOT’s discretion.

“Enbridge has developed and implements very thoughtful and thorough emergency response plans to respond to any size of a release from Line 5, including any release at water crossings made by Line 5, such as at the Straits,” Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said. “Our in-depth response plans provide detailed response strategies for emergency responders to a release at any point along Line 5."

Duffy also said the current spill plan is a supplement to one submitted and approved by PHMSA in 2013.

The company is looking to build a tunnel to house a portion of the 67-year-old pipeline which flows under the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan but the project has faced strong opposition from the Democratic governor as well as environmental groups. 

Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter light crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline that flows from Wisconsin to Ontario.

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