Governor Snyder's New Pipeline Safety Advisory Board: Long on Bureaucrats & Special Interests, Short on Technical Talent
Governor Snyder filed Executive Order 2015-12 with the Secretary of State yesterday to create a Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board under the aegis of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. A response to the disastrous 2010 Enbridge Pipeline 6B rupture in Calhoun County and the agitation against Enbridge Pipeline 5, which transects the Straits of Mackinac.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Schuette completed a binding legal agreement with Enbridge to prevent Enbridge Pipeline 5 from being used to transport ‘heavy crude oil’ under the Straits of Mackinac. This agreement formally implements the first recommendation of the Michigan DEQ Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report released in July to ban heavy crude oil in Line 5. Sounds good, but Enbridge Pipeline 5 does not now have the pumping horsepower for heavy crude transmission, and the weight of the crude has very little to do with pipeline integrity. Corrosive constituents in the crude, biofouling, and a host of other technical issues are far more important determinants of pipeline integrity. This agreement has great optics, but little consequence.