Enbridge defies Whitmer’s order to shut down Great Lakes pipeline

click to enlarge In 2013, the National Wildlife Federation sent divers to look at Enbridge, Inc.'s aging straits pipelines, finding wide spans of unsupported structures encrusted with exotic zebra mussels and quagga mussels. - NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION
National Wildlife Federation
In 2013, the National Wildlife Federation sent divers to look at Enbridge, Inc.'s aging straits pipelines, finding wide spans of unsupported structures encrusted with exotic zebra mussels and quagga mussels.

Canada-based Enbridge defied Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut down a controversial pipeline in a channel connecting two of the Great Lakes.

Whitmer in November revoked the company’s 1953 easement agreement with the state and demanded it close the Line 5 oil and natural liquid pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac by May, saying it presents “an extraordinary and unacceptable risk” to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

In a statement to Metro Times, Whitmer’s office called the pipeline a “ticking time bomb that threatens over 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually across the U.S., including 350,000 jobs in Michigan.”

“Michiganders cannot trust Enbridge, especially after Enbridge’s Kalamazoo pipeline ruptured causing one of the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history and dumping one million gallons of oil into the river,” Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said. “If Enbridge continues to operate the pipeline beyond the deadline, the state will seek to disgorge the company of its profits earned while unlawfully trespassing on state land.”

Metro Times couldn’t reach Enbridge for comment, but in a defiant letter in January, the company said the state “lacks the authority” to revoke the easement because the pipeline meets the requirements.

"The governor has overstepped her authority and Enbridge will vigorously defend our ability to operate Line 5 and we have no intention of shutting down the pipelines based on these unspecified allegations,” Mike Koby, Enbridge vice president for U.S. operations, said in the letter.

On Wednesday, activists gathered at Kemeny Recreation Center in Detroit to rally in support of shutting down the pipeline.

“We cannot afford to play dirty with something as valuable as the Great Lakes,” Andrea Pierce, chair of the Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus, said at the rally. “For the Anishinaabek people who hold the Great Lakes with utmost cultural importance, this is more than an issue of energy – it’s about our way of life. Our voices can no longer be ignored while fossil fuel giant Enbridge desecrates our sacred land and waterways.”

For nearly a decade, Indigenous leaders, environmental activists, and scientists have warned about the potential for an oil spill. Tribal governments and environmental groups have sought legal injunctions to shut down the pipeline.

“Enbridge is unlawfully operating this pipeline as an affront to our rights,” Sue Franklin, executive director of South Eastern Michigan Indians, Inc., said. “This serial polluter and corporate behemoth has gotten away with continually ignoring the will of sovereign tribal nations for too long. Enough is enough.”

The state said Enbridge had violated the easement after underwater photos revealed that parts of the dual pipelines were not anchored as required.

State officials point to the disastrous Enbridge oil spill in July 25, 2010, when one of the company’s pipelines ruptured and spewed more than 840,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek that feeds into the Kalamazoo River. At the time, it was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The Great Lakes are home to 21% of the world's fresh surface water and supply drinking water to 48 million people, including 5 million Michigan residents.

“Line 5 is a direct health and safety risk to the people of Michigan,” Monica Lewis Patrick, president and CEO of We the People of Detroit, said. “We can no longer afford to jeopardize our ability to breath clean air and drink clean water just so a foreign fossil fuel giant can make a profit.”

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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