Additional enviromental review of Line 5 process not a bad idea

Enbridge officials and their many supporters didn’t like it when it happened but a federal judge’s ruling last week that a key state agency should take a closer look at the pipeline company’s plans for dealing with potential oil spills in the waterway connecting lakes Huron and Michigan probably isn’t a bad idea.

According to a story by the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith instructed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to provide more information about its reasons for approving the Canadian company’s spill response strategies for areas including its controversial Line 5, which carries oil and natural gas liquids between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

The ruling was in response to a National Wildlife Federation lawsuit, which alleges the plans omitted key details about personnel, equipment and methods that would be used to contain and clean up oil that could be released from a rupture of a 4-mile-long underwater segment of the pipeline that extends through the Straits of Mackinac, said the AP story.

An Enbridge spokesman noted, however, that in the 65 years that Line 5 has operated beneath the straits, there have been no problems.

Separately the company, based in Calgary, Alberta, reached an agreement last year with former Gov. Rick Snyder to decommission that section of Line 5 in favor of a new pipe that would be routed through a tunnel drilled in bedrock beneath the straits.

However, Michigan’s recently elected attorney general, Dana Nessel, ruled last week that a law enacted in December to carry out the agreement violates the state constitution.

Given how bad a leak in the straits would be, and the fact that the process isn’t exactly on a fast track as it is, we believe this extra step in the name of good environmental stewardship is appropriate.