Enbridge, the Canadian energy giant, is suing the state of Michigan in federal court in an attempt to stop state governor Gretchen Whitmer's quest to shut down the company's Line 5 petroleum pipeline over safety concerns.
Line 5 moves about 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, traversing parts of northern Michigan and Wisconsin.
Whitmer ordered the shutdown after a state Department of Natural Resources review concluded Enbridge has violated the terms of the state easement that grants the company permission to operate Line 5 in the lake bottom of the Straits. The DNR review also concluded the easement should never have been granted, because allowing Line 5 to operate in the straits violates the public’s overriding interest in protecting the Great Lakes.
Enbridge maintains that federal regulators with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are in charge of pipeline safety, not the state of Michigan. As a result, Enbridge argues, Michigan has no authority to shut down Line 5 over alleged safety concerns.
Vern Yu, Enbridge's Executive Vice President and President of the Liquids Pipelines division, said “in the face of continued roadblocks by this Administration it’s time for the State to stop playing politics with the energy needs and anxieties of US and Canadian consumers and businesses that depend on Line 5. It is concerning to see the current Administration is willing to compromise these needs.”
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce also voiced its concerns, stating "we’re grateful today for the important steps being taken in court to protect Michigan’s energy supply, and the access to affordable energy Michigan businesses and their employees count on. Governor Whitmer’s move to close Line 5 would devastate local communities who rely on the Line for jobs, for energy, and for millions in tax revenue. Line 5 is safe, and there’s a plan to make it even safer by burying it deep below the lakebed.”
Tiffany Brown, Whitmer's spokesperson, drew attention to Enbridge's previous pipeline leaks: "The company's claims it can continue to pump oil through the Straits of Mackinac indefinitely, posing enormous risk to our economy and way of life – and that the people of Michigan have no say in the matter,” Brown said. “The company that spilled nearly one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and made Michigan the home of the largest on-land oil spill in American history has again demonstrated it cares only about its bottom line.”