Enbridge taking Michigan to court over Line 5 tunnel, Barlow highlights risks to Great Lakes

Enbridge Inc. is launching legal action against Michigan over the state’s insistence that the company shut its Line 5 crude oil pipeline down within two years even though a proposed replacement will not be ready for at least another five years, the Globe and Mail reports.

Enbridge, the same company responsible for a pipeline rupture in 2010 that spilled diluted bitumen into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, is insisting that it be allowed to build a tunnel for a replacement section of the Line 5 pipeline underwater across the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Enbridge is arguing that shutting off Line 5 before the replacement pipeline is in place will jeopardize Michigan’s energy supply. It will also put a squeeze on crude being transported from the Alberta tar sands.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the company has made its intentions clear. “It is now abundantly clear that Enbridge … is only interested in protecting its bottom line,” she said.

Council of Canadians Honorary Chairperson Maude Barlow says the pipeline poses too much risk to the Great Lakes.  According to the Globe, “fears [of a rupture] were stoked last April when a tugboat’s anchor stuck and dented the exposed pipeline.”

“It would be absolutely catastrophic to the Great Lakes if there’s a rupture,” said Barlow. “They’re asking the people of the Great Lakes to take a chance that this thing won’t rupture between now and 2024."

She pointed out that the company might have grounds to launch a challenge to the Michigan government’s decision under Chapter 11 of the North American free-trade agreement, which allows legal action against foreign governments if they change laws regarding a deal after investments have been made.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of the project based on the danger the aging pipeline poses to the Great Lakes, which provide life and livelihood to more than 40 million people. We have called for a full shut down of this line which carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day and is part of the Enbridge Mainline. It is the only pipeline system supplying Ontario’s four refineries with western oil.