Enbridge plans to defy Michigan's order to shut down controversial pipeline

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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.

Enbridge Energy said it won’t comply with Michigan’s order to shut down a controversial pipeline in a channel connecting two of the Great Lakes.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November revoked the Canadian 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 defiant letter Tuesday, Enridge officials 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.

He added, "The justification is to protect the Great Lakes from a pipeline that has not spilled a single drop of oil into the Great Lakes."

In a statement, Ed Golder, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, told Metro Times on Tuesday that state officials “stand behind our efforts to protect the Great Lakes, and we stand behind the substance of the November 2020 revocation and termination of the Easement.”

“This letter is Enbridge’s attempt to power wash the company’s long history of violating the terms of the 1953 Easement, and their current non compliance,” Golder said. “The continued presence of the dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac violates the public trust and poses a grave threat to Michigan’s environment and economy. Enbridge cannot unilaterally decide when laws and binding agreements apply and when they do not.”

He added, “We look forward to making our case in court, not via letters and press releases.”

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. The Great Lakes also provide 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in annual wages across the U.S., including more than 350,000 jobs in Michigan, according to Whitmer's office.

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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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