National Wildlife Federation fights Line 5 one year after Michigan orders shut down

The NWF is one of many groups in opposition to Enbridge’s oil pipeline which runs through the Straits of Mackinac; Enbridge claims it is essential.
Line 5
Line 5(Enbridge)
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Line 5 is back in the spotlight.

It has been a year since the state of Michigan ordered Enbridge to stop its operation. Some are fighting to ensure the company does just that.

“Enbridge was required to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac last May due to a revoked easement,” National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Fresh Water Campaigns Manager Beth Wallace said of the oil pipeline.

A year later, Enbridge is still operating the oil pipeline. The Canadian company invoked the country’s 1977 pipeline treaty to allow it to continue. “Until or unless there is an emergency, in other words until there’s a spill on Line 5, Enbridge has the right to continue to operate Line 5 because of this treaty,” Wallace said.

Enbridge argued it has every right to keep funneling oil across the straits. It added Line 5 is necessary to provide energy to the state and the entire midwest. “Line 5 supplies more than half the propane used in Michigan and Michigan uses more propane than any other state,” Enbridge Spokesperson Ryan Duffy said.

He continued, “It provides more than 65% of the propane that’s being used in the U.P. That’s really important for people to heat their homes, cook their food and that sort of thing. A large percentage of the light crude oil on the line goes to Detroit area refineries for use in Michigan.”

The National Wildlife Federation, however, said it does not think Line 5 is essential. “Long term we need to start thinking about ways that we can go to electrification,” Wallace said. “That’s the electrification of cars which is already booming like crazy right now, especially as we are facing down incredible price volatility with oil and gas.”

The NWF said a transition away from the pipeline is possible, and would not restrict energy use for state residents in the short term. “We have also had three independent experts separately say that we can transition away from Line 5,” Wallace added.

She continued, “An orderly shutdown of Line 5 in a matter of months, not years. That would mean putting that product on other Enbridge pipelines that go to the same market as well as perhaps a handful, and I’m talking literally two or three rail cars a day that might meet very localized propane or energy needs.”

Enbridge countered Wallace’s claim by calling it inaccurate. It added that shutting down Line 5 would not be this easy. “The fact is that it would take 2,100 tanker trucks, or 800 rail cars every day to move the product that line 5 carries, not just ‘one or two,’” Duffy said.

The NWF also argued the pipeline poses a pollution risk to the Great Lakes. Enbridge countered that Line 5 will not pollute any of the freshwater lakes. “All of our inspections, our tests and our maintenance programs show us that it is safe and it has always been safe,” Duffy said of Line 5. “It has been in the straits for over 65 years, it has never released a drop of product.”

Enbridge is pushing to get approval this year from the Michigan Public Service Commission to begin its Great Lakes Tunnel Project. This would house the portion of Line 5 in the straits, making leaks less likely.

The NWF said the best chance of shutting down Line 5 is with federal intervention from the Biden administration.

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