Line 5 continues to flow as Michigan’s closure deadline passes

May 12, 2021 By    

Enbridge continues to operate Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac despite orders from the state of Michigan to shut down operations by May 12.

Late last year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revoked a 1953 easement allowing Enbridge to operate the dual pipelines in the Straits and set a 180-day compliance deadline, citing concerns about a potential oil spill. The state also filed a lawsuit asking the Ingham County Circuit Court to recognize the validity of the action.

In response, Enbridge took Michigan to federal court, insisting that the state lacks jurisdiction to shut down a segment of a pipeline that flows across state and national borders. Enbridge and Michigan entered mediation in the case in April. Mediation is scheduled to continue this month.

“Enbridge made clear in its response that this case belongs in federal court as any attempt to shut down Line 5 has serious ramifications for the Transit Pipelines Treaty of 1977 between Canada and the United States and raises substantial questions of federal law relating to interstate commerce and federal jurisdiction on pipeline safety issues,” says Enbridge in a press release.

The day before the closure deadline, the Government of Canada filed an amicus brief siding with Calgary-based Enbridge.

“A shutdown of Line 5 would cause certain, immediate and serious harm to several important public interests,” says the Government of Canada in the brief. “Economic prosperity and employment in Alberta and Saskatchewan would be harmed if a key part of their economies – hydrocarbon production – lost efficient and reliable access to its main markets. Central Canada and parts of the northern United States would lose relatively safe, efficient and reliable access to fuel that is essential to the Toronto and Detroit Airports, to businesses that employ thousands of people in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and to the propane supply on which many residents in Michigan rely for heating and cooking.”

Canada started discussions with the Biden administration to assess the effect of a closure on the 1977 treaty, according to the brief.

Amicus briefs were also filed by attorneys general of Ohio and Louisiana; chambers of commerce of the U.S., Canada, Michigan and Ohio; the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; North America’s Building Trades Unions; and the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO.

Enbridge is proceeding with design and permit applications for the Great Lakes Tunnel, which would encase a replacement section of Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac and be positioned below the lake bed. The infrastructure would eliminate the risk of anchor strikes and the potential of any release from Line 5 into the Straits, says Enbridge. Initial permits for the tunnel project were approved by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

Featured image: JamesBrey/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

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