Activists temporarily turn off Line 5 valve in Vassar

By: - October 20, 2021 12:48 pm

Enbridge sign, St. Ignace | Laina G. Stebbins

Updated and corrected, 3:38 p.m., 10/20/21 with comment from Whitmer’s office and Detroit Will Breathe

A Michigan water protector dressed up as a pipeline worker traveled to a Tuscola County Enbridge station in Vassar and physically turned the valve to shut down the Line 5 oil pipeline for several hours on Tuesday.

According to a statement from Up Hell’s Creek Camp, a climate justice activism group based in Hell, located in conservative Livingston County, the water protector first called Enbridge and asked them, unsuccessfully, to turn off the pipeline before entering the pumping station and turning the valve themself with a wrench.

The activists live-streamed video of the event on Facebook.

“We respect the rights of others to express their views on the energy we all use, but [Tuesday’s] pipeline tampering incident involving Enbridge was not a lawful protest. It was a criminal activity that put people and the environment at risk,” said Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy.

“The actions taken to unlawfully trespass on our facility in Michigan and attempt to tamper with energy infrastructure was reckless and dangerous,” Duffy continued, adding that the protesters put the safety of themselves, first responders and nearby communities and landowners at risk.

“We take this very seriously and will support the prosecution of all those involved,” he said.

Enbridge temporarily shut down the line Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution” in response to the incident.

The Canadian oil company is currently considered an international trespasser in the Straits of Mackinac with its continued operation of Line 5. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had ordered the company to cease operations in the Straits by May 12, but Enbridge has refused to comply without the backing of a court order.

In the State of Michigan v Enbridge lawsuit, a federal judge is currently weighing whether a state or federal court will oversee the proceedings that will ultimately determine whether or not Whitmer’s order will be upheld.

Although the event was organized by Up Hell’s Creek Camp and attended by activists belonging to the Detroit Will Breathe group, state Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) released a statement solely calling out the Detroit group as “left-wing domestic terrorists” who need to “return to Detroit.”

“It is frustrating that these individuals from out of town invaded our peaceful community to tamper with sensitive infrastructure and spread fear amongst the citizens of Tuscola County. Detroit Will Breathe needs to return to Detroit,” Green said. “I am calling on the governor to denounce this act of terrorism and the attorney general to investigate the left-wing domestic terrorists.”

Green went on to accuse Whitmer’s “reckless statements” on Line 5 of having “a direct, adverse influence that lead [sic] to dangerous methods and unlawful actions from her flock.”

In an email, a member of Detroit Will Breathe confirmed that the group “had no involvement in organizing the action” and did not specifically comment on Green’s statement.

“This matter is under criminal investigation by the Michigan State Police, and it would not be appropriate to comment on an active investigation,” said Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy.*

Correction: This story originally did not have Green’s correct name.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).