Last Chance: Governor Whitmer Must Act to Shut Down Line 5

For the sake of brevity, I will start with my conclusion: Enbridge and Line 5 need to exit stage left and only Governor Whitmer can officially uphold public trust in the Great Lakes by revoking the Line 5 easement with the state of Michigan. This is her duty as Governor.

Line 5 is a nearly 70-year-old oil pipeline that currently sits at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, crossing one of the dynamic and harshest locations in the Great Lakes for over four miles. This line pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids every day, risking the health of our fresh drinking water source, our cherished wildlife, and the backbone of the Michigan economy. Enbridge has an easement agreement with the state of Michigan, which requires safety measures and safe operation.

Line 5 and anchor support damaged due to an unknown force in the Great Lakes. Credit: Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy

Enbridge’s irresponsible decision to restart Line 5, while unknown forces have damaged critical safety structures on the pipeline, along with their dismissal of Governor Whitmer’s request for shut down, is the final wake-up moment the state needed to sever ties with this company.

The court issued temporary restraining order to shut down Line 5 is step one in a three-step process that needs to occur in order for the Great Lakes, Michigan citizens and businesses to finally be protected from a company that clearly has more focus on their bottom line than the protection of critical resources.

Workers are cleaning a bird oiled during the July 2010 spill in Michigan. Credit: Michigan DNR.

In addition to the temporary restraining order issued, we need Governor Whitmer to take two additional actions to remove Line 5 from our freshwater:

  1. Order the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to revoke the easement, and;
  2. Formally join the Attorney General in her legal efforts to shut down Line 5.

Also flooding the news are the released images and reports, which were provided to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), where Enbridge is trying to explain their way out of this mess. But what it comes down to: Line 5 is simply in the absolute worst location, exposed to the fierce nature of the Great Lakes, and Enbridge is clearly unable to mitigate risk, properly detect damage and they continue to thumb their nose at Michigan oversite.

Line 5 cannot continue to operate with the required due care – this is a recipe for disaster and inaction or delayed action, on the two actions above, leaves the state culpable.

Our Great Lakes, and the people, economy and wildlife that depend on them, are far more important than a 70-year-old oil pipeline that can be replaced with alternatives.

Piping plover habitat would be devastated by an oil spill. Credit: Amanda Carey.

State decision makers need to focus on alternatives and state-based investments.

Governor Whitmer’s administration, and all state decision makers – including the state legislature – need to treat this as the emergency it is and put immediate focus on building secondary supply chains to the small reliance Michigan has on product coming off of Line 5. Several studies have now outlined pathways to alternatives, which include alternative modes of transportation, alternative sources, increased storage and investments in renewables.

What is needed is some leadership, direction and support from our state to make it happen. State decision makers need to focus on incentive-based policies and investments that build out energy supply chains that create permeant local jobs, improve energy resiliency, protect our environment and have the potential to lower costs long term.

The politics and special interest that have stalled progress on this issue need to be put aside and decision makers need to do the right thing by putting our tax dollars into investments that benefit Michiganders and protect the Great Lakes and local economy.

Governor Whitmer has more than proven herself to be a leader at a time of immense challenges. I have no doubt that she can and will rise to this challenge as well.

Michiganders have a right to clean, safe drinking water and if we let this moment pass without urgent action, Governor Whitmer may be forced to take action while oil is washing up on our shores, businesses are closing down and drinking water is cut off from many communities.

Ask Governor Whitmer to take action and revoke Line 5’s easement today:

Take Action!
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Published: June 29, 2020