Canadian report poses alternatives to Line 5 pipelines

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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.

New research from Environmental Defence Canada
makes the case that there's a path forward to shutting down the Line 5 dual pipelines, which run under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Canadian gas company Enbridge Energy plans to build a tunnel to contain the pipeline, but some engineers think the proposal poses safety risks.

Canadian officials have supported the pipeline, citing the company's claims that closing it would put the country's natural gas supply at risk.

But Beth Wallace, conservation partnerships manager at the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center, said this report shows alternatives that would not cause major disruptions.

"Line 5 is almost 20 years past its useful engineered life, according to the experts that originally constructed the pipeline," said Wallace. "The location itself, 20% of the world's freshwater, drinking water for millions of people, it should have never been put there to begin with."

The report outlines possible alternatives, such as rerouting some of the Line 5 supply to another pipeline, Line 78, and other fossil-fuel-transport options.

Enbridge says Line 78 is full serving existing customers and cannot accommodate more, and that increasing fuel-transport capacity would take years to develop, and also harm the environment.

Wallace added that another motivation for closing Line 5 — not covered in the report — is how fast the transition away from fossil fuels is moving, particularly in the automotive sector. She said the risks to the environment and Tribal water rights are too high to continue operating the pipeline.

"Now that it's 70 years old, we have alternatives," said Wallace. "We're transitioning away from fossil fuels, there's just absolutely no reason why we can't start to transition, including with this particular pipeline."

After Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Line 5 to be shut down last year, the Canadian government invoked a 1977 treaty between the U.S. and Canada to block that action.

So far, the Biden administration hasn't supported the shutdown, although tribal leaders and environmental groups note the pipeline violates the water rights of Bay Mills Indian Community, whose ancestral home is the Straits of Mackinac.

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