As Michigan marks the two-year point this week since the Canadian oil giant Enbridge began defying a state shutdown order, citizen groups today called for the Biden administration to take immediate action to protect the Great Lakes from a crude oil pipeline that turned 70 in April.
“There’s no place for old technology that pumps crude oil through Lake Michigan,” said Sean McBrearty, Oil & Water Don’t Mix coordinator. “Whether or not Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac is ever replaced someday, right now, it is a ticking time bomb. That’s why the State of Michigan acted to shut it down, and that’s why President Biden must urgently act to protect the Great Lakes before it’s too late.”
When Gov. Whitmer on November 13, 2020, issued her order terminating Enbridge’s Line 5 easement agreement with the state, she cited numerous violations of the agreement by Enbridge, including missing anchor supports, missing protective coatings, and pipeline damage, including from multiple ship anchor strikes. The governor gave Enbridge 180 days–until May 13, 2020–to permanently shut down the pipeline and filed suit in state court to enforce her order. Enbridge convinced a federal judge to hamstring the state court proceedings, and the case has since languished in federal court.
Call on Pres. Biden to Act
A decision on whether Michigan state courts will be able to enforce Whitmer’s shutdown order is now in the hands of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Thus far, the Biden administration has remained silent in the Michigan case. As recently as last month, however, the Biden administration successfully challenged the oil industry before the U.S. Supreme Court to keep a case with similarities to the Line 5 controversy in Michigan in Colorado state court’s jurisdiction.
“The court needs to hear from the United States through the Solicitor General, who in the Colorado case stood against allowing the oil industry to thwart Colorado laws,” said Christy McGillivray, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter political and legislative director. “Michigan’s public trust doctrine and environmental laws required the governor to protect the Great Lakes from the very real threat of an oil pipeline failure in the Straits of Mackinac. She did her job, and now the President must do his and support the State of Michigan and the 40 million citizens who rely on a healthy Great Lakes.”
"Whether or not Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac is ever replaced some day, right now, it is a ticking time bomb. That’s why the State of Michigan acted to shut it down, and that’s why President Biden must urgently act to protect the Great Lakes before it’s too late.” - Sean McBrearty, Coordinator, Oil & Water Don't Mix
Meanwhile, Enbridge and a Wisconsin tribe filed a report last week in federal court revealing that flooding has pushed the Bad River dangerously close to a section of Line 5 where a federal judge has ruled that Enbridge’s pipeline is illegally occupying Bad River Band tribal lands. Enbridge’s Line 5 pushes 23 million gallons of crude oil and other hazardous liquids through a 645-mile pipeline that crosses from Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, through the Straits of Mackinac and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario, and Detroit.
“This 70-year-old pipeline is operating a full 20 years past its design lifetime. Line 5 threatens Tribal Nations and violates the State of Michigan’s shutdown order,” said Debbie Chizewer, an attorney for Earthjustice representing the Bay Mills Indian Community on Line 5 issues in Michigan. “It's time to retire Line 5. Every day that oil flows through the pipeline is another day we risk unacceptable environmental, economic, and cultural disaster for Bay Mills and across the Great Lakes.”