Two years ago, the Detroit News published our op-ed supporting upgrades to the Line 5 energy pipeline that flows from western Canada to Michigan (via pipeline under Lake Michigan) to eastern Canada. While the Line 5 project has largely flown under the radar compared to other pipeline projects, like Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is vital for providing energy resources to Michigan. Unfortunately, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered Line 5 to close by May 12. The order puts Michigan’s access to affordable and reliable oil and gas into question and is a slap in the face to Canada, whose economy depends on these exports to its southern neighbor.
Why is Line 5 so important? Because the pipeline is an essential part of Enbridge’s export network, delivering fuel supplies to 40 million people in the Great Lakes region on both sides of the border. It will take 15,000 trucks and 800 rail cars a day to replace deliveries which significantly raises the risk of accidents and leaks, not to mention the increased carbon emission from putting more vehicles on the road.
Canada, already let down by the cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year, is pushing back against Michigan’s efforts to close the pipeline. Ottawa has repeatedly raised concerns about the Line 5 closure to U.S. officials, but their pleas have gone unanswered. Ottawa is now considering more drastic action, such as invoking a 1977 bilateral treaty to keep Line 5 operating or intervening in the legal dispute playing out in U.S. courts. So far, Enbridge has refused to close the pipeline, reasoning that the governor’s order needs to be backed by a judge.
“The federal government continues to have a role to play, and we appreciate what they’ve done to date,” says Enbridge’s Ryan Duffy.
Although Line 5 has been safely operating for nearly 70 years, activists have expressed concern that it could leak into the Straits of Mackinac. Governor Whitmer made closing it a key promise in her 2018 gubernatorial campaign. Fears of leakage, however, are unfounded. Enbridge has already planned to replace the aging pipeline at its own expense without taking a cent from taxpayers. Unfortunately, both the governor and Attorney General Dana Nessel went out of their way to stonewall the project, despite the Michigan Legislature’s approval of the plan.
Closing line 5 doesn’t make sense for Michigan or Canada. Having reliable access to affordable crude oil and natural gas supplies is absolutely critical to keeping consumers on both sides of the border out of the cold.