Did Enbridge Inc. violate compliance rules in concealing for three years information on its Line 5 Pipeline?

“Despite Enbridge knowing about the damage in 2014 and conducting a full suite of inspections throughout the summer of 2016, we are just learning now – in 2017 – of damage to the protective coatings,” the senators wrote in a letter to PHMSA.Michigan’s two Democratic senators,  Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, sent letters to the CEO of Calgary-based Enbridge and the head of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), seeking answers about the company’s reporting procedures. At issue is a recently released 2014 report of problems with the line’s protective coating.

“Michiganders need assurance about the integrity and safety of operating Line 5 in a high consequence, unusually sensitive area and that any problems will be addressed quickly and transparently. We ask PHMSA to determine whether Enbridge committed any violations with respect to the pipeline integrity management program, their reporting requirements to PHMSA, and safety requirements to maintain the integrity of Line 5.”

In their letter to Enbridge CEO Al Monaco, the senators asked for assurance of honest and timely disclosure in the future. “According to your company’s public statements, ‘internal reporting issues’ are to blame for the discrepancies between the facts on the ground and the information provided to our offices and to state regulators. This explanation is simply unacceptable,” the senators wrote. “Your company’s leadership has repeatedly told us that the segment of Line 5 under the Straits is the most closely monitored pipeline in your network.”

The lawmakers were referring to the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Enbridge's Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline that travels through Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, originating in Superior, Wisconsin, and terminating in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.                                                                                       

In a statement, Enbridge said the 2014 damage "did not harm the pipe itself," the gaps have since been repaired, and Line 5's structural integrity "was never compromised."

Reports of line damage first came to light in August, prompting attention from the Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, the Michigan State Police and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline built in 1953 and runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Canada. It transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.