November 13th, 2020
Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources took historic action to protect the Great Lakes by revoking the existing easement agreed upon in 1953 that allows the operation of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. This decision comes after the completion of a comprehensive 15 month review of the easement to determine whether its “due care” standard was being followed. A notice was sent on Friday, November 13, to the current operators of the pipeline, Enbridge Energy, notifying them of the easement termination based on continuous violations of the public trust doctrine and the unreasonable risk of a catastrophic oil spill the pipelines pose to the Great Lakes. The notice cites Enbridge’s “persistent and incurable” violations of safety standards and protocols in the easement terms and conditions originally agreed to by the previous owner of the pipeline, and now agreed to by Enbridge with the transfer of ownership. Some of these failures and violations include unsupported span lengths, pipeline coding deviations from typical standards, and exceeding minimum curvature standards. The pipelines must now cease operation within 180 days, or in May 2021, which will allow for an appropriate energy transition and to avoid U.P. homes having heat disruptions through this winter. Enbridge is, however, still legally able to seek the necessary approvals to continue construction of their planned tunnel project approved in 2018. In support of these actions, Attorney General Nessel filed a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court to validate the revocation of the easement.
Michigan LCV fully recognizes the importance this momentous decision has on our Great Lakes and way of life and sincerely thanks Governor Whitmer, AG Nessel, and Director Eichinger for their courageous leadership on this issue. Accordingly, we apply our highest rating of 4 to this decision which will be added to Gov. Whitmer’s environmental scorecard. This is the type of decisive environmental action that should be lifted up as an example of truly serving the public interest that all elected officials in Michigan should follow.