A view of the Mackinac Bridge from the Straits of Mackinac
From Wikimedia Commons

Add your voice to protect the Great Lakes and shut down the Line 5 pipeline

Vi Bui
4 months ago

Right now, we have a critical moment to protect the Great Lakes from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. 

Transporting crude oil and liquefied natural gas from Sarnia, Ontario, to Superior, Wisconsin, Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline has been pumping more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day beneath the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Michigan and Huron. The 67-year-old pipeline sits on the lakebed and threatens the ecosystem, drinking water sources, and ways of life of millions along the Great Lakes. 

The aging pipeline is a ticking time bomb. In 2018, an anchor strike further damaged the pipeline, showing how easily a devastating oil spill in the Great Lakes could occur. In response to widespread calls for the decommissioning of the pipeline, Enbridge submitted plans to build a tunnel 100 feet under the Straits’ lakebed to continue transporting crude oil, disregarding the Public Trust Doctrine that safeguards the Great Lakes for public use.

Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, Enbridge is still charging ahead with its plan. They are asking the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to rubberstamp a siting permit that allows the construction of the tunnel to go ahead. They claim to have the permits needed to build the oil tunnel based on the approvals they had to lay the original pipes in 1953 and are now seeking a declaratory ruling from the MPSC. The public has until May 13 to provide comments directly to the MPSC. This is our chance to let the Michigan government know that Canadians are strongly opposed to this pipeline because of the threats it poses. 

Submit a comment today to voice your concerns about Enbridge’s proposal. We have included some sample text you can use at the bottom of this document to reflect the Canadian perspective.   

There are many reasons why the Line 5 pipeline and Enbridge’s proposed tunnel should concern Canadians. For many years, the Council of Canadians have been standing with our American allies to highlight the tremendous risk it poses to the Great Lakes. “It would be absolutely catastrophic to the Great Lakes if there’s a rupture,” said Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. 

A study by Dr. Robert Richardson of Michigan State University estimated that cleanup of a Line 5 pipeline rupture could cost over $6 billion to the U.S. side alone. This estimate did not include cascading damage to the drinking water, aquatic ecosystems, industries, tourism and livelihood of millions of Canadians along Lakes Michigan and Huron. Enbridge has a poor track record of pipeline ruptures, most notably the Kalamazoo Line 6B spill in 2010.

In a rush to build the tunnel, Enbridge has also violated various state and federal laws. There are currently five active lawsuits against the company for their violations of easement agreements with the State of Michigan and tribal nations along the pipeline’s path, failure to provide sufficient spill response plans, and their disregard of the Public Trust Doctrine, which protects the Great Lakes for public use. As a shared natural landmark between the U.S. and Canada, the Great Lakes are the shared responsibility of residents of both countries to protect.

Threatening the Great Lakes and the livelihood of millions of people along the shoreline for an industry that is in rapid decline and has been fueling climate catastrophe is simply not worth the risk. At a time when we must quickly shift away from fossil fuels and support workers and communities in the transition, the Line 5 pipeline and the proposed tunnel must be loudly rejected. 

Now is an opportunity for Canadians to let politicians on both sides of the Great Lakes know that the Line 5 pipeline and tunnel must not be built. We must alert the Michigan state government of the consequences of a pipeline spill to Canadians and our strong opposition to Enbridge’s proposal.

Write the MPSC today and demand that they shut down Line 5. 
You can use the sample text below, which has been modified for the Canadian perspective.

Dear MPSC Commissioners,


I am writing you as a Canadian resident to strongly urge you to reject Enbridge Energy’s request for a declaratory ruling that they do not need MPSC approval for their proposal to build an oil tunnel in the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac. The Line 5 pipeline and proposed oil tunnel poses tremendous risks to the Great Lakes, a shared landmark between U.S. and Canada.

The 1953 easement granted to Enbridge’s predecessor, Lakehead Pipeline Co., was an easement to operate twin pipelines on the lakebed and contained no consideration of a subsurface tunnel. Further, as you are aware, there is currently an ongoing lawsuit on behalf of the people of Michigan asserting among other things that the 1953 easement ought to be considered void because the potentially disastrous impact of an oil spill in the public trust waters of the Straits of Mackinac was not fully considered prior to issuance of the easement. 
This is obviously a new project, despite Enbridge’s claims to the contrary, and your role in reviewing this project is essential to protect the public by determining whether or not this project is in the public interest and whether or not there are prudent and feasible alternatives to the proposed oil tunnel.

The impacts of an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac are insurmountable. In addition to the estimated $6 billion in cleanup costs, a spill will cause cascading damage to the drinking water, ecosystem, industries and livelihood of millions of Americans, Canadians, tribal nations and First Nations along the lakeshore. 

Impacts on the climate must now be taken into account with any new fossil fuel infrastructure. The proposed oil tunnel is new infrastructure that will transport Enbridge’s crude oil for several decades, furthering climate catastrophe at a time when we must rapidly wind down the oil and gas industry and support workers in the transition. 

This cannot be considered maintenance, it is a substantial change in design and a new project that the MPSC has a responsibility to thoroughly review through robust public engagement and a contested case process.

Please protect Michigan residents and millions of Canadians that are directly impacted by this project by denying this request for a declaratory ruling and ensuring that members of the public have ample opportunity to be heard and fully engage in this process before making your determinations in this case.
 

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