The latest updates in the fight to shut down Line 5
Last week, Michigan LCV held a “Lunch & Learn” briefing on the status of the effort to remove Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 oil pipeline – a potentially catastrophic ticking time bomb that sits on the bottom of the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac (“the worst place in the Great Lakes for an oil spill”).
Riyaz Kanji and Bruce Wallace – two legal experts that happen to also be Michigan LCV board members – reviewed the facts on Line 5, including Enbridge’s terrible track record of spills and lies, and gave a report on several legal cases moving through the courts that could result in an orderly shutdown of the pipeline at specific locations where Line 5 poses a threat.
Attendees were eager to ask questions and discuss the information presented, including information confirmed by Enbridge’s own experts in the Bad River Band case showing that implementing the viable alternatives to Line 5 would have a negligible impact on gas prices. Taking specific steps to install these alternatives would strengthen the Great Lakes’ region’s energy systems for the future, regardless of when Line 5 is decommissioned.
The facts also demonstrate that Enbridge’s proposed tunnel under the Straits is not the answer to the threat of a spill. Indigenous tribes in Michigan have been strong and clear that they oppose for various reasons, and recently some energy and tunnel safety experts submitted testimony to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC, an important decision maker on the tunnel proposal) on behalf of Tribes with alarming concerns about the risk of explosion and other dangers.
With Enbridge pushing this false tunnel solution, trampling over the sovereign rights of Native American Tribes, and flaunting the efforts of the State of Michigan (led by Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer) to remove the imminent threat of a spill from the Great Lakes, the Biden Administration must step up to the plate to stand up for Indigenous and State rights. At this point, their silence is deafening and their position is missing in various legal proceedings, creating a tough situation for judges and giving an edge to Enbridge.
Meanwhile, Canada is backing Enbridge both legally and diplomatically. The stakes could not be higher not only for the Great Lakes but for the entire nation’s clean energy transition. Should Line 5 continue to operate and the U.S accept the Canadian interpretation of a 1977 treaty, no international pipeline could be shut down without Canadian approval. This would make it nearly impossible to transition to renewable energy sources as the tar sands oil is lucrative economically for Canada (and has the support of Prime Minister Trudeau).
Attorney General Nessel (center) pointing to a “Shut Down Line 5” sign and Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak (right) at a fundraiser hosted by Cherry Republic founder Bob Sutherland (middle) and his team, including Sarah Harding (left) (Credit: Matt Zubik/Cherry Republic).
In a positive legal development, just today a judge ruled that a court’s decision to move Attorney General Nessel’s case from state court to federal court needs further review and will now head to an appeals court. This action could help reassert the state’s sovereignty and also moves the case closer to a decision on the future of Line 5. Read the Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition statement here.
We applaud Attorney General Nessel’s tenacity in continuing to fight for Line 5 to be shut down for good to protect our Great Lakes, Michiganders’ way of life, and our state’s economy. Stay tuned for more updates on Line 5 as things progress.