New Worries Over Aging Underwater Pipeline in Great Lakes

Mackinac Island, a major driver of tourism dollars, sits near where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses through the Straits of Mackinac.

Mackinac Island, a major driver of tourism dollars, sits near where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses through the Straits of Mackinac. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Kansas City mayor decries sales tax cap plan … coding error leads to Mass. headache … new wildfires in Arizona … and historic changes coming to Vermont gun laws.

Here are state and local government stories that caught Route FIfty’s attention ...

INFRASTRUCTURE | Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday called on Enbridge, the Canadian owner an aging underwater energy pipeline that passes through the Straits of Mackinac, to accelerate work to finish alternative studies to replace Line 5 and mitigate risk from boat anchor strikes.  

According to a statement from Snyder’s office:

[Late Tuesday night, the] state was informed by Enbridge that three small dents exist in Line 5, likely due to the same vessel activity that may have caused the damage to another line that released mineral oil into the water. While Enbridge reported that the dents are very small and pose no threat to the pipeline, the state is demanding that its own experts verify this information. Gov. Snyder said this incident solidifies the need for completion of the alternatives studies that he demanded as part of the Enbridge agreement last November.

“An anchor strike was the largest risk identified in a previous independent analysis of the Enbridge pipeline, which is apparently what happened in the Straits last week. We need to accelerate these studies so they are completed as soon as feasibly and responsibly possible,” Snyder said. “We need the right answers, but we need them as soon as we can get them so that we can take action faster to protect the Great Lakes.”

Line 5, which opened in 1953, has been a source of major concern for state and local leaders in Michigan. A rupture of the pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac could unleash an unprecedented environmental disaster in the Great Lakes. Enbridge says its pipeline is not in danger. Alternatives include placing a new pipeline in a tunnel, building a new pipeline under the lake bed and digging a trench for a new pipeline within a secondary containment structure. [Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder; The Times Herald; Michigan Radio]

TAXES | Kansas CIty, Missouri Mayor Sly James assembled local leaders and other stakeholders on Wednesday to voice their opposition to House Bill 2168, state legislation would restrict the city’s ability to collect voter-approved sales taxes, which account for 25 percent of Kansas City’s budget. “Legislation that caps our sales taxes doesn’t solve any problems and it flies in the faces of the voters who have approved them,” James said in a statement. “Kansas City’s momentum is undeniable, and our community wants to keep it going. Once again, I’m not asking the State Legislature for anything other than to simply leave us alone.”  


The Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier (Shutterstock)
  • Montpelier, Vermont: Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday signed three bills that will bring historic changesto gun laws in the Green Mountain State. “Many who voted for me are disappointed and angry. I understand I may lose support over my decision to sign these bills today, but those are consequences I’m prepared to live with,” Scott said during a Statehouse signing ceremony. [VT Digger]
  • Columbus, Ohio: State House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican who is reportedly under investigation by the FBI, announced that he will resign his seat on May 1. Federal investigators are looking into Rosenberger’s “worldwide travel to his use of a donor's luxury condo.” [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • Jefferson City, Missouri: The Missouri House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight that’s investigating Gov. Eric Greitens’ conduct has taken an interest in the governor’s alleged use a veterans charity organization’s donor list ahead of the 2016 election. Additionally, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Greitens testified before the committee that “she felt coerced into a sexual act during one of their early meetings” in his basement. Missouri’s Republican governor is facing an upcoming trial where he faces felony charges for invasion of privacy in an incident involving the woman. Greitens has denied the allegations and the inquiries, calling them a witch hunt.  The Kansas City Star; St. Louis Public Radio]
  • Sacramento, California: Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday insisted that the California National Guard will not enforce federal immigration law but will heed a call from President Trump for assistance along the U.S.-Mexico border in the form of ”targeting transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers along the border, the coast and throughout the state,” as the governor detailed in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary James Mattis. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Boston, Massachusetts: A coding error has created a major headache for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and 6,100 Bay State residents who owe child support. “Late last week, DOR was alerted by several businesses that they had received notices by mail containing personal information of individuals with child support obligations who were not their employees,” according to a spokeswoman. [The Boston Globe]
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation released a “multi-step action plan” earlier this week for new safety oversight of self-driving vehicles in the state. PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards discussed the state’s voluntary testing policy during an autonomous vehicle summit in Pittsburgh. "Given public concerns about safety on Pennsylvania roadways, we must implement interim oversight policies while we await legislative action on our request for permanent authorization," Richards said. [PennDOT]
  • Flagstaff, Arizona: Fire season is off to an early start in Northern Arizona with one blaze starting near Flagstaff on Wednesday. This weekend, firefighters contained a quickly moving brush fire near Winona that was started by a man burning trash, according to authorities. [Arizona Daily Sun; The Republic /]
  • Nashville, Tennessee: The Volunteer State is one step closer to having Sunday liquor sales after the Tennessee Senate narrowly approved legislation on Wednesday that now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam, who intends to approve it. The bill would also allow grocery stores to sell wine on Sundays. [Nashville Public Radio]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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