Canadians and Americans Unite: Governor Whitmer, stay strong against Enbridge’s Line 5

June 27, 2019
Media Release

Ontario – The Council of Canadians, Food & Water Watch, FLOW and Oil and Water Don’t Mix welcome lawsuits filed today by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to block plans by Enbridge Inc to build a new tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac and shut down the existing 66-year-old pipelines. The Line 5 pipeline poses immediate and immense risk of catastrophic harm to the Great Lakes waters, coastal communities, businesses, and citizens, and must be shut down permanently.

The Attorney General’s lawsuits are in response to legal action by Enbridge against the state of Michigan. This Canadian company has shown that it will use every ounce of its political influence on both sides of the border to push through its dangerous oil tunnel.

Enbridge wants to do an end run around Michigan’s constitution and environmental laws, which are meant to protect our waters, to guarantee that its oil tunnel is built. The Canadian government is bolstering Enbridge’s efforts by arguing the refusal of this tunnel and shut down of Line 5 is another potential threat to exports of Alberta oil to the U.S.

“We need Michigan’s Attorney General to defend our communities against Enbridge’s tactics and urge Governor Whitmer to not be diverted from quickly moving forward with decommissioning Line 5,” said Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “In Canada, we call on the Canadian government to put the interests of the millions of people and economies that rely on the Great Lakes ahead of the interests of Big Oil corporations like Enbridge.”

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter applauded the attorney general’s lawsuits and the decision by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to begin a review of the violations of the 1953 agreement under which the pipeline was built, which could be grounds for more legal action.

“We welcome the attorney general’s lawsuit, and are encouraged that Governor Whitmer appears ready to stick to her campaign promise to permanently decommission the Line 5 pipeline,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “We urge her to move swiftly. The only way to protect the people of Michigan from a Line 5 rupture in the Straits of Mackinac, and the irreversible damage it would cause, is to shut down the pipeline for good.”

FLOW (For Love of Water) also commended Attorney General Nessel’s and Governor Whitmer’s legal actions against Enbridge. The organization’s executive director said it was that time Michigan’s government is standing up for our public waters — waters located in arguably the worst possible place in the Great Lakes for an oil spill to happen.

“This is a watershed moment in the battle to decommission Line 5, prevent a catastrophic oil spill, and protect the Great Lakes, an economic engine for our state and the source of drinking water for millions,” said FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood.Attorney General Nessel and Governor Whitmer made strong campaign promises to shut down Line 5, and now our elected leaders are making good on their commitment to protect the Great Lakes.”

Approval of the Line 5 tunnel could also set a precedent that would open the Great Lakes to more pipelines and tunnels. This is not in the public interest. A commons approach should be taken, supported by a public trust doctrine, which underpins in law the universal notion of the commons that certain natural resources, particularly air, water and the oceans, are central to our very existence and considered to be the property of the public. The trust resources must, therefore, be protected for the common good – not put at risk for corporate gain.

“Shutting down Line 5 is the only way Michigan can prevent an oil pipeline rupture,” said David Holtz, spokesperson for Oil & Water Don’t Mix. “Today’s legal action by Attorney General Nessel is a dramatic turning point in the fight to save the Great Lakes from an Enbridge pipeline spill.”

Recent reports on the gravity of climate change advise that governments and citizens have a window of a decade to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Governments must make a swift and immediate shift to clean, renewable energy and move away from disastrous, polluting fossil fuel infrastructure to protect our water, drinking water sources and people’s health and safety.

We call for the immediate and permanent shut down of the Line 5 pipeline and for greater protection of the waters of the Great Lakes.

Background

The pipeline runs through both Canada and the United States in the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The dual pipeline carries crude oil and natural gas between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, Ontario.

Enbridge Energy would like to bore a tunnel through rock 100 feet below the lakebed to house new tunnel for a pipeline that would exist for 99 years. Enbridge Energy also wants to continue operating the existing Line 5 pipeline in the Great Lakes indefinitely until it gets its way with the tunnel.

There is a very real danger of a spill. Video footage shows that damage to Line 5 from an anchor strike last April was greater than Enbridge had previously revealed. The company has recklessly failed to maintain Line 5 while hiding its true condition from state authorities and the public, showing blatant disregard for public safety.

Enbridge was responsible for one of the largest oil spills in United States history when its Line 6B pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling about a million gallons of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. The clean-up took years and cost over $1 billion. In 2016, Enbridge was fined $61 million for the spill. And that was just one of more than 1,000 Enbridge spills that dumped 7.4 million gallons of oil between 1999 and 2013. Enbridge’s dangerous history in the Great Lakes raises the question of whether the Line 5 pipeline is too risky to operate.

A study conducted by Dr. Robert Richardson of Michigan State University estimated that a cleanup of a Line 5 pipeline rupture could cost as much as $6 billion USD.

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For media inquiries contact:

Jan Malek, 613-233-4487 x231, jmalek@canadians.org
Communications, The Council of Canadians

Julie Light, 510-992-4083, jlight@fwwatch.org
Western Region Communications Manager, Food & Water Watch

Liz Rosan Kirkwood, 231-944-1568, liz@flowforwater.org
Executive Director, FLOW

David Holtz, 313-300-4454, david@davidholtz.org
Spokesperson, Oil and Water Don’t Mix