Column: How would you like someone to trespass on your property and pocket $2M each day?

July 8, 2021 3:59 am

“Enbridge eviction” celebration, Conkling Park, Mackinaw City | Laina G. Stebbins

Enbridge Energy, the operator of Line 5 pipeline, is willfully thumbing its nose at our governor, state officials, tribes and landowners as it ignores the rights of owners of properties Line 5 crosses.

Two examples: Straits of Mackinac and the reservation of the Bad River LaPointe Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

At the Straits of Mackinac, the bottom lands Line 5 traverses are owned by the state of Michigan. Enbridge operates Line 5 pursuant to a 1953 easement which specifies how Enbridge is to conduct itself. Enbridge is in gross violation of this easement. It had a free ride for 68 years and still refuses to comply. After years of violations out of great concern for the threat of such violations, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said enough and noticed Enbridge to cease and desist.

The Bad River Reservation is on precious and sensitive land alongside the Bad River just west of the Wisconsin-Michigan border. Line 5 crosses 13 miles of the Reservation pursuant to three easements that expired in the last seven years. Enbridge ignored the termination dates in these easements, disrespected the tribe’s rights and Line 5 has caused harmful erosion. The tribe sued Enbridge to cease and desist, remove Line 5 and restore damaged areas.

So Enbridge is willfully trespassing in both places. Its answer is to be defiant, spread disinformation and subject the owners of the land — the citizens of Michigan for the Straits and the tribe for the Bad River — to shoulder the full risks of a dangerous pipeline. This same attitude led to one of the worst inland oil spills in U.S. history when in 2010 Enbridge’s Line 6B ruptured, spilled 1 million gallons and caused irreparable damage in the Kalamazoo area.

Enbridge claimed Line 6B was safe just days before the pipeline ruptured and it is using the same posturing with Line 5. 

Let’s not make the same mistake again in believing Enbridge’s misinformation and outright lies. Line 5 has leaked 33 times. While it hasn’t leaked in the section under the Straits, dive footage shows sections of the pipeline are unsupported and the pipeline itself is damaged. This is not surprising given that the original life span for Line 5 was supposed to be 50 years. It’s a ticking time bomb.

Decades later, Enbridge is still pumping oil beneath the Straits and ignoring notices to shut down.

Why is Enbridge so defiant and disdainful of the people that have given them a free ride for 68 years? Two reasons: Approximately $2 million in its pockets each day and a maniacal desire to run its pipeline until failure consistent with the pipeline industry’s mantra.

That amount is about 9% of Enbridge’s net cash flow, so it needs the oil to keep flowing to maintain cash flow. 

This is about a business making money, not about what’s best for our Great Lakes. Whitmer did the right thing in standing up to Enbridge and saying enough is enough.

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