At the end of March, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer halted work on a Line 5 replacement oil tunnel within hours of a ruling by the state attorney general that put the dangerous project in peril. The ruling nullified a law signed by former Governor Rick Snyder just days before leaving office giving Canadian company Enbridge Energy the go-ahead to build a utility tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to replace the Line 5 oil pipeline in the next decade.
Gov. Whitmer’s March 28th order stopped short of shutting down Line 5 completely, and the pipeline continues to transport millions of gallons of oil. A rupture in Line 5 would cause irreversible damage to the source of drinking water for 35 million people, and to the region’s environment and economy. One in five jobs in Michigan is linked to Great Lakes freshwater.
The Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition, to which Food & Water Watch belongs, says it’s time to scrap Line 5 for good.
“The backroom deals creating Enbridge’s proposed oil tunnel couldn’t survive public scrutiny and now we know they can’t survive the rule of law,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of coalition partner For Love of Water (FLOW). “The path forward for Michigan is for Gov. Whitmer to immediately begin the process of decommissioning Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.”
Up until now, Enbridge has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Michigan lawmakers. Attorney General Nessel and Gov. Whitmer’s latest actions indicate that finally may be changing. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are expected to challenge the attorney general’s ruling in court.
Enbridge has a history of shoddy safety in the Great Lakes Region
Enbridge was responsible for the one of the largest oil spills in United States history when its Line 6B pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling about a million gallons of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. The clean-up took years and cost over a billion dollars. In 2016, Enbridge was fined $61 million for the spill.
But that’s not all. The Kalamazoo River rupture was just one of more than a thousand Enbridge spills that dumped 7.4 million gallons of oil between 1999 and 2013. Enbridge’s dangerous history in the Great Lakes raises the question of whether the Line 5 pipeline is too risky to operate.
A federal judge agrees, at least in part, with Food & Water Watch and other environmental groups that Line 5 is unsafe. Judge Mark Goldsmith recently sent Enbridge’s safety plan back to regulators, telling the company and state agencies to comply with federal laws requiring an environmental impact statement and a detailed plan for dealing with potential spills.
The ball is in Gov. Whitmer’s court
The future of Line 5 remains uncertain. Ultimately, the decision rests with Gov. Whitmer, who has the power to decommission the pipeline for good.
During her campaign, Gov. Whitmer said, “I want to get that oil out of the Great Lakes. As long as that tunnel is being built [...] the pipeline will still be going through the waters, and that’s not acceptable.”
Food & Water Watch and our partners will continue calling on Gov. Whitmer to honor her campaign pledge and scrap this dangerous, dirty oil project in the Great Lakes.
We need your help in urging Governor Whitmer to permanently decommission Line 5 today!