Laina G. Stebbins
Environmentalists have been waging high-profile protests against Canadian oil company Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement in Minnesota for months. The national climate change newsletter, heated, reported this month that Minnesota sheriffs’ offices have entered into financial arrangements that environmental and Indiginous activists say incentivize law enforcement to crack down on those opposing Enbridge’s Line 3.
The Michigan Advance asked the Michigan State Police (MSP), along with the county and city police departments nearest to Line 5, another Enbridge pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, if any similar arrangements have been made in Michigan to date.
“I’ve checked and the Michigan State Police has no such agreement with Enbridge,” MSP spokesperson Shanon Banner said in an email.
The sheriff’s offices for Cheboygan, Mackinac and Emmet counties also said they don’t have security arrangements with Enbridge, as did the Mackinac Island Police Department.
The Mackinaw City and St. Ignace police departments said the same, with Mackinaw City Chief of Police Todd Woods noting Enbridge’s property is located just outside the city limits.
Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy said the initiative is Minnesota and Line 3-specific and the company does not pay law enforcement.
“No, we are not reimbursing law enforcement in Michigan,” Duffy said in an email. “The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission [PUC] required Enbridge to create a Public Safety Escrow Account for the reimbursement of local government regarding costs of law enforcement around the Line 3 Replacement Project. This was included as a condition for our Route Permit.”
Duffy said that for local government units to receive payment from the escrow account, they must submit itemized requests to the Minnesota PUC-appointed Public Safety Liaison.
“In other words, these requests are not made to, nor does payment come from, Enbridge,” Duffy said.
The oil company has so far secured permits from one of three state entities needed to construct a new, tunnel-encased Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. It plans to operate the current 68-year-old Line 5 dual pipeline until the new tunnel project is completed, which could take up to a decade.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November directed Enbridge to shut down the existing dual pipeline by May 12 due to repeated violations of the company’s 1953 easement with the state. Enbridge has said it does not recognize Whitmer’s order as legitimate, and is locked in several court battles with the state over the issue.
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