New: Whitmer announces Line 5 shutdown after 15-month review

By: - November 13, 2020 12:37 pm

Mackinac Bridge | Susan J. Demas

This is a breaking story that will be updated.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is taking action to shut down the Line 5 dual pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac following a more than yearlong review process. 

The state found that Enbridge — a Canadian oil company that owns Line 5 and also is a partial owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)  — has repeatedly violated the 1953 Easement and that the “continued operation of the dual pipelines violates the state’s solemn duty to protect the Great Lakes under the public trust doctrine.”

Whitmer and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Dan Eichinger notified Enbridge Friday that the 1953 easement — which allowed the company to operate dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac to transport petroleum and other products — is being revoked and terminated. 

Enbridge must cease operations of the dual pipelines by May 2021 to allow for an orderly transition that protects Michigan’s energy needs over the coming months, Whitmer’s office said. 

“After spending more than 15 months reviewing Enbridge’s record over the last 67 years, it is abundantly clear that today’s action is necessary. Enbridge’s historic failures and current non-compliance present too great a risk to our Great Lakes and the people who depend upon them,” Eichinger said in the press release. “Our number one priority is protecting the Great Lakes and we will continue to work with our partners across Michigan in pursuit of that objective.”    

The Advance reported in August that the DNR review was being finalized.

Nessel got Line 5 shut down, for now. Enviros say Whitmer can shut it down for good.

Enbridge issued a statement Friday afternoon that the company believes the pipeline is safe and “there is no credible basis” for terminating the 1953 Easement. The company is reviewing the governor’s notice.

“This notice and the report from Michigan Department of Natural Resources are a distraction from the fundamental facts,” said Vern Yu, executive vice president and president, Liquids Pipelines. “Line 5 remains safe, as envisioned by the 1953 Easement, and as recently validated by our federal safety regulator. We will continue to focus on the safe operation of the dual Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac, ensuring the Great Lakes are protected while also reliably delivering the energy that helps to fuel Michigan’s and the region’s economy.”

Whitmer said the Great Lakes define Michigan’s borders, and Enbridge has “routinely refused to take action to protect our Great Lakes and the millions of Americans who depend on them for clean drinking water and good jobs.”

“They [Enbridge] have repeatedly violated the terms of the 1953 easement by ignoring structural problems that put our Great Lakes and our families at risk,” Whitmer said in the press release. “Most importantly, Enbridge has imposed on the people of Michigan an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that could devastate our economy and way of life. That’s why we’re taking action now, and why I will continue to hold accountable anyone who threatens our Great Lakes and fresh water.” 

Nessel got Line 5 shut down, for now. Enviros say Whitmer can shut it down for good.

Attorney General Dana Nessel has previously sued Enbridge on behalf of the state of Michigan due to environmental concerns about that pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac. 

In July 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer directed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to do a comprehensive review of Enbridge’s compliance with the 1953 Easement and other factors affecting its validity.

The Great Lakes Business Network (GLBN) considers this a “win for Michigan, the Great Lakes and our regional community.”

“Enbridge’s long history of safety violations and environmental devastation more than justify this decision to revoke the Line 5 easement and protect the residents and businesses of Michigan,” Larry Bell, GLBN co-chair and president of Bell’s Brewery, said in a press release. “I applaud the governor for taking the necessary steps to remove this threat to the Great Lakes.” 

Presidential hopeful Inslee calls for Line 5 closure

Sean McBrearty, Michigan legislative and policy director of Clean Water Action called it a “big day for our Great Lakes.”

“After over a yearlong review, the Department of Natural Resources has discovered many incurable violations to the 1953 easement that allows Enbridge to operate Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac,” he said. “We applaud the Governor’s actions to protect Michigan residents and our public trust resources by revoking the 1953 easement and shutting down the Line 5 pipeline. This is yet another example of Gov. Whitmer putting the health and safety of Michiganders first and fulfilling the promises she made to voters in 2018.”

Michigan Environmental Council President and CEO Conan Smith also cheered the decision.

“Gov. Whitmer took bold and incredibly important action by revoking Enbridge’s Line 5 easement Friday. Her leadership will protect the Great Lakes and the more than 48 million residents in Michigan, Canada and the Midwest that depend on them for drinking water,” he said. “We thank the Governor for her tireless work on behalf of all of us to keep water, ecosystems and people healthy.”

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Katie O'Brien Kelley
Katie O'Brien Kelley

Katie O'Brien Kelley is a Michigan State University graduate with degrees in journalism and theatre. She was previously a reporter, editor and podcast coordinator at The State News — Michigan State's award-winning student paper. As a reporter there, she covered the university's administration, including its mishandling of reports against former doctor Larry Nassar's abuse, as well as academics and student experiences. She was also previously an intern at the Lansing City Pulse.