Activists call on Biden to shut down Canadian oil company's Line 5 pipeline in Michigan

Oct 12, 2021 at 12:32 pm
click to enlarge In 2013, the National Wildlife Federation sent divers to look at Enbridge, Inc.'s aging pipeline in Michigan's Straits of Mackinac. - National Wildlife Federation
National Wildlife Federation
In 2013, the National Wildlife Federation sent divers to look at Enbridge, Inc.'s aging pipeline in Michigan's Straits of Mackinac.

A coalition of environmental activists called on President Joe Biden to weigh in on the ongoing fight to decommission Line 5, Canadian oil company Enbridge's aging oil and gas pipeline in Michigan's Great Lakes.

The coalition, which includes groups like Clean Water Action, Oil and Water Don't Mix, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and the National Wildlife Federation, says it delivered more than 33,000 petition signatures to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters requesting that he pass them on to Biden. The coalition says they also plan on delivering the signatures to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and the White House.

"Michigan residents and others from across the country signed these petitions asking the president to stand with Governor Whitmer as she puts our Great Lakes above a foreign oil company's profits by ordering the shutdown of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline," says Sean McBrearty of Clean Water Action and Oil and Water Don't Mix. "We're calling on the President to stand with Governor Whitmer in rejecting Enbridge's delay tactics, and rejecting the Canadian government's direct attack on our sovereignty by intentionally misinterpreting a treaty to make the audacious claim that we must leave a major risk pumping oil indefinitely through the heart of the Great Lakes."

Earlier this month, the Canadian government invoked a 1977 treaty to trigger negotiations with the U.S. over the pipeline. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have called for the pipeline to be shut down by May, citing environmental concerns. Enbridge ignored the order.

The news was announced during a press conference on Tuesday, coming days after an oil spill in California believed to be caused by a ship's anchor damaging a pipeline off the coast of Huntington Beach. In 2018, Line 5 was damaged by an anchor.

"The California oil spill was likely caused by a ship's anchor striking the pipeline," McBrearty says. "This pipeline was much newer than Line 5, built in an era when pipeline technology was better than it was in 1953. And yet the operators in California were not able to shut the line down immediately."

McBrearty adds, "A spill from line five could be orders of magnitude worse than the spill last week in California."

"Canada's arrogance is shocking," says Andy Buchsbaum of the NWF. "It's demanding that the federal courts close their doors to the state, and a case to which Canada is not even a party, all in service of the financial interests of a Canadian company. The American judicial system cannot be so easily manipulated. With the petitions today, we're saying it's time for President Biden to stand up and say to Canada, 'enough is enough.' The Great Lakes are too important to risk for the sake of the profits of a Canadian oil company."

In 2010, Enbridge's Line 6B caused a spill in the Kalamazoo River — one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history.

"The Kalamazoo river oil spill opened our eyes," says Whitney Gravelle, a tribal leader with the Bay Mills Indian Community. "And now California has become the next cautionary tale."

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