Michigan halts work on Enbridge Line 5 tunnel

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer put a stop work order on a project to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

Line 5 is a 65 year-old oil and natural gas pipeline that crosses under the St. Clair River where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, bringing crude to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.

According to an article in the Sarnia Observer, “the pipeline was built to carry Western Canadian oil and natural gas liquids between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia but, in recent years, attracted the attention of Michigan politicians and environmental groups who warned a rupture in the straits could contaminate the Great Lakes.”

The Council of Canadians was one of the groups objecting to 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 and are the economic centre at the heart of the continent.

The Observer also notes that as part of its deal with the state, “Enbridge also agreed to build a tunnel for the pipeline’s crossing at the St. Clair River to Ontario, where it supplies Sarnia-area industries and others in Ontario and Quebec. Currently, the pipeline sits on the bottom of the straits.”

Maude Barlow, honorary chair of the Council of Canadians, said she was happy to hear the tunnel project was no longer moving forward.

“Clearly Enbridge was seeking long-term control of the bottom lands of the Great Lakes, and this bid has failed the legal test of the state,” she said. “By ordering a pause in permitting, the governor has taken into account the threats Line 5 poses to both the Great Lakes and the safety of the people of Michigan.”

She said the next step is to decommission Line 5, which carried 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.

The Council of Canadians has called on both Ontario and Michigan governments to shut down the Line 5 pipeline.