Tag: Line 5

2022 Year in Review: FLOW Makes Advances along the Waterfront

Above: A burst of sunshine and Lake Michigan’s power at the shore in Frankfort, Michigan. (Photo/Kelly Thayer)


Michigan’s water bounty is vast—touching four of the five Great Lakes, more than 10,000 inland lakes, 36,000 river miles, 6 million acres of wetlands, and groundwater that is the drinking water source for more than 4 million Michiganders.

At FLOW, we envision a future where healthy waters sustain healthy communities in the Great Lakes Basin, and together with our supporters and partners, we are bringing that vision to life.

Such an abundant heritage requires protection from a host of threats, and creative thinking about opportunities to keep water public and protected. These, in turn, require vision. At FLOW, we envision a future where healthy waters sustain healthy communities in the Great Lakes Basin, and together with our supporters and partners in 2022, we are bringing that vision to life.

The clear waters of Great Sand Bay on Lake Superior north of Eagle River, Michigan, on the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Photo/Kelly Thayer)

The view Michiganders enjoy of expansive, seemingly infinite Great Lakes waters is mirrored in our work, which spans all of Michigan’s public waters and includes all beings who depend on them. FLOW protects the Great Lakes—and our public trust rights to access, swim, drink, fish, and navigate these magnificent fresh waters—from threats that include climate change and the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, while strengthening protection of our vital groundwater and securing clean water for all.

FLOW protects the Great Lakes and our public trust rights, while strengthening protection of our vital groundwater and securing clean water for all.

In 2022, FLOW’s sustained efforts to ensure safe, clean, affordable, and public water for all resulted in measurable, immediate achievements, as well as in steps toward long-term goals. Here’s a summary of the impact, as well as hope for an even better 2023 in the fight to protect 20 percent of the planet’s fresh surface water and a way of life for all of us who depend on it for our well being.

Line 5: Preventing a Petroleum Disaster in the Great Lakes

The continued presence of Enbridge’s nearly 70-year-old Line 5 petroleum pipelines crossing in the Straits of Mackinac is a navigational hazard and a clear danger to the Great Lakes, communities, tribes, and businesses. The dented and decaying pipeline is owned and operated by Enbridge, the same Canadian corporation responsible for the 2010 spill of more than 1.2 million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed near Marshall, Michigan.

Line 5 shown in red runs from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ont., as part of Enbridge’s larger pipeline network in yellow running the Alberta, Canada, tar sands to Montreal.

The nearly 70-year-old Line 5 petroleum pipeline crossing in the Straits of Mackinac is a navigational hazard and a clear danger to the Great Lakes, communities, tribes, and businesses.

Acting on the public trust doctrine legal principles articulated by FLOW, Attorney General Nessel filed a lawsuit to shut down LIne 5 in 2019. In 2020, Governor Whitmer revoked and terminated the 1953 easement Enbridge relied upon to operate Line 5, while recognizing that alternatives to Line 5 exist for supplying oil and propane.

The State of Michigan and the public, however, must remain vigilant until the oil stops flowing for good because Enbridge is defying the shutdown order, and Line 5 remains exposed to exceptionally strong currents, lakebed scouring, new anchor and cable strikes, and corrosion. At the same time, Enbridge is seeking permission to locate a tunnel to carry the petroleum under the Straits, posing another set of unacceptable risks.

 In 2022, to shut down Line 5 and stop the ill-advised oil tunnel, FLOW:

  • Spurred Public Engagement & Comment—Spurred, as a founding steering committee member of Oil & Water Don’t Mix, vigorous public engagement and public comment last fall as part of  the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review of the proposed oil tunnel; and FLOW also prepared final comments submitted to the federal agency on October 14.
  • Helped Reopen the Record on Proposed Tunnel—Helped persuade the Michigan Public Service Commission in July to reopen the record to receive more safety details on the tunnel proposal and Line 5 pipelines.
  • Hosted a Line 5 Livestream—Co-hosted, in partnership with Oil & Water Don’t Mix and the Bay Mills Indian Community, a July livestream event on the status of the Line 5 struggle that drew nearly 600 registrants and reached thousands more people through social media and our e-newsletter.
  • Released a New Fact Sheet—Published a new Line 5 fact sheet.

    Groundwater: Strengthening Protection of Our Sixth Great Lake

    FLOW’s 2022 reportBuilding Consensus: Securing Protection of Michigan’s Groundwater.

    The volume of groundwater in the Great Lakes Basin is comparable to the volume of Lake Huron—in essence, it’s the sixth Great Lake. Groundwater supports industry and agriculture, recharges our streams and the Great Lakes, and provides drinking water to millions of people.

    But because it is out of sight, and therefore often out of mind, groundwater is the least protected arc of that cycle. Limited protections and underinvestment in monitoring have allowed contamination to plague groundwater in tens of thousands of locations in Michigan. Since 2018, FLOW has advanced groundwater as a top priority, bringing new attention and momentum to its stewardship.

    Since 2018, FLOW has advanced groundwater as a top priority, bringing new attention and momentum to its stewardship.

    One of the biggest threats to Michigan’s groundwater is 130,000 failing septic systems. They pollute groundwater with pathogens and household toxic materials, yet Michigan is the only state lacking statewide requirements for inspection, maintenance, and replacement of failing septic systems. FLOW and our partners are striving to remedy that unacceptable fact. 

    In 2022, to protect groundwater, FLOW helped lead the way with these actions:

    • Helped Pass a Countywide Septic Ordinance—Helped in August to persuade the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners, in northwest Michigan, to enact a countywide ordinance preventing and defending against septic system pollution of groundwater.
    • Published a New Groundwater Report—Released in June, as the culmination of 15 months of work, our report, Building Consensus: Securing Protection of Michigan’s Groundwater, and accompanying story map. The report expresses the consensus of multiple stakeholders critical to the state policy process that the state must do more to gather and analyze data fostering an understanding of the condition of groundwater. Key recommendations from the report have helped to form FLOW’s 2023 groundwater policy agenda.

      FLOW’s immersive Groundwater story map.

    • Hosted a Groundwater Livestream—Hosted a livestream in March featuring FLOW staff and five partners, including State Rep. Padma Kuppa and experts on groundwater from academia, the scientific community, and the state. In all, 180 people registered for the event, which offered perspectives on the critical importance of our groundwater resources and the work of the Michigan Groundwater Table convened by FLOW.
    • Collaborated on a World Water Day Resolution—Worked with Rep. Kuppa on a World Water Day resolution that was adopted by Michigan’s State House of Representatives.
    • Guided Water Infrastructure Funding—Engaged last spring with national, regional, state, and local partners, to determine the most impactful policy interventions to ensure the equitable distribution of state and federal funds for water infrastructure, including a $35 million appropriation to help address failing septic systems.

    Clean Water for All: Keeping Water Public and Protected

    Access to clean water for all is a human right and even more vital during emergencies including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, household water shutoffs in Detroit and elsewhere, and the Flint lead-tainted water crisis. The cost of inaction and the failure to fund public water infrastructure continues to result in water insecurity, flooding, pollution, and costly patchwork repair.

    Access to clean water for all is a human right and even more vital during emergencies including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, household water shutoffs in Detroit and elsewhere, and the Flint lead-tainted water crisis.

    In 2022, to ensure equitable funding for public water systems and to prioritize water access and affordability, FLOW:

    • Helped Advance Public Water, Public Justice in New York—Worked with New York State lawmakers in support of the newly introduced  Public Water Justice Act, based on FLOW’s groundbreaking 2018 model legislation to extend public trust protection to groundwater, establish a royalty and public justice trust fund from bottled water companies, and pay for water infrastructure priorities.
    • Supported Equity in Water Infrastructure Funding—Engaged statewide with Michigan lawmakers and the Whitmer administration on legislative and other proposals to equitably distribute an historic, short-term increase in federal funds for water infrastructure.
    • Participated in an Environmental Justice Livestream—Presented at an Environmental Justice livestream event hosted by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative in March.
    • Celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act—Published original insights and perspectives throughout the year about keeping water protected and in public hands, including a series of articles in October on the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and its importance, and asked in November, What Do the Election Results Mean for the Great Lakes State?
    • Hosted a Livestream with Maude Barlow—Hosted a livestream event in June with lifelong and world-renowned champion of water, Maude Barlow, who has written a memoir built on her career of activism. Its title, appropriately, is Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism. In the book, Barlow vividly details her work on many issues, perhaps most importantly her successful advocacy of water as a human right.

    In March, FLOW supported the introduction of three related public trust bills on groundwater, bottled water, and natural resources. 

    • Supported Public Trust Bills in Michigan—Supported in March the introduction of three related public trust bills to expand public trust protections to groundwater, end the bottled water loophole of the Great Lakes Compact in Michigan, and direct the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to be strong public trustee stewards. 
    • Collaborated on a Public Trust Resolution—Worked with state lawmakers to declare water as a public trust in a World Water Day resolution.  
    • Upheld the Human Right to Water & Sanitation—Continued our efforts to build upon the successful passage of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation Resolution in Traverse City. Promoted statewide and regional engagement on this resolution work with We the People, Michigan Municipal League (MML), Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.
    • Drafted a Model Ordinance on Green Infrastructure—Drafted a model green infrastructure ordinance that would require municipalities to evaluate the economic and environmental effectiveness of green infrastructure alternatives—assisted by MML, SEMCOG, and City of Grand Rapids.
    • Advanced Green Infrastructure in Communities—Continued to work with Traverse City and Marquette on advancing green infrastructure as part of their new master plans to benefit the environment and save taxpayer dollars.

    FLOW’s Commitment: Lifting Up Young Leaders on Water Protection

    FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood

    Too often we hear that members of Generation Z, those born between 1997-2012, mistrust government, worry about the future of democracies, and feel overwhelmed by the weighty burden of climate change they are inheriting. But from the depths rise the leaders of tomorrow—our beacon of hope.

    “Protecting our precious waters is a multigenerational mission,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.

    “Protecting our precious waters is a multigenerational mission,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “We put that mission into practice not only by pursuing solutions to water problems that will pay off for generations to come, but also by engaging young people who will carry forward the work as part of a rising generation.”

    In 2022, to lift up the youth water movement, FLOW was proud to engage with:

    Lucy Jones enjoys a Lake Michigan sunset.

    • Water&—Bebe Schaefer and Rachel Roberts, two students at American University in Washington, D.C., recently launched the nonprofit organization Water&, on a “constant journey of collective action.” We at FLOW were thrilled to join hands with Water& and other young adult-led organizations in the Great Lakes Basin, and in our nation’s capital, to expand hope and leadership in the protection of our public waters.
    • Mackenzie Joseph—Our highly productive summer 2022 Milliken Intern for Communications was Mackenzie Joseph, a native of Johnstown, Ohio, and rising senior at Ohio University in Athens, who is majoring in Communication Studies with minors in History, English, Writing, and Political Communication. 
    • Mary Basso and Irene Namae—Our ambitious and talented summer 2022 Milliken Interns for Law and Policy were Mary Basso and Irene Namae. Irene was born in Uganda; after finishing a Bachelor of Law there from Makerere University, she served as a magistrate judge. She currently is pursuing her PhD in law at the University of Arizona, focusing on Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy.  Mary Basso is from Owosso, Michigan. After finishing a bachelor’s degree, Mary moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to study law at Vanderbilt University Law School.
    • Lucy Jones—When FLOW first wrote about Lucy Jones—the inspiring Traverse City teen who creates and sells jewelry to benefit the Great Lakes—last February, our supporters were moved by her environmental ethic and enterprising spirit. So we thought it was fitting to catch up with Lucy at year’s end with her holiday sales in full swing. FLOW thrives on these creative collaborations with teens and young adults—the Next Generation—who take action and lead the way to protect fresh water.

    Looking to 2023: Abundant Opportunity to Protect Fresh Water for All

    Now comes the next phase of the work that we all must do together: Hold our elected officials accountable to ensure the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are healthy, public, and protected for all. As the Great Lakes State, Michigan must lead on every imaginable freshwater policy to protect this fragile, water-rich ecosystem and to secure safe, affordable drinking water for all.

    “Big, bold ideas for a vibrant future vision are necessary to generate public engagement and support. So if there ever was a moment, this would be it,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.

    “Michigan must seize this window of opportunity to think about systemic changes needed and make the greatest gains we can to protect fresh water, the environment, Pure Michigan economy, and our way of life in the face of impacts from unrelenting climate change and a water-scarce world,” said Kirkwood. “Big, bold ideas for a vibrant future vision are necessary to generate public engagement and support. So if there ever was a moment, this would be it.”


    P.S.—Your Inside Look at FLOW with Liz Kirkwood Starts Now. Take an exclusive look behind the scenes at FLOW’s work, made possible by our generous supporters:


     

    Hundreds Attend Army Corps Hearing, Strong Majority Speaks Out against Proposed Oil Pipeline Tunnel under the Great Lakes

    Above: Hundreds of people attend a public comment session held by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the oil pipeline tunnel proposed by Enbridge under the Straits of Mackinac, on Sept. 8, 2022, at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace, Michigan. Photos by Kelly Thayer.


    By Kelly Thayer, FLOW Deputy Director

    Katie Otanez, Regulatory Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, delivers a presentation on Sept. 8, 2022, in St. Ignace, Mich., while Army Corps staff look on.

    Five-and-half hours into a marathon federal hearing that lasted seven hours on Thursday, September 8, in St. Ignace, Michigan, more than 4 out of 5 people who spoke said that an oil pipeline tunnel proposed under the Great Lakes was a dangerous idea that would rob future generations by threatening the most precious thing on earth — fresh water — and worsening the climate crisis.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held the public comment session to help set the scope of its environmental impact statement study of a proposal by Enbridge, Inc., of Canada, to build an oil tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac to house its Line 5 oil pipeline, which carries oil from western Canada primarily to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. The Army Corps study is expected to continue through at least 2023.

    U.S. Army Corps welcome sign on Sept. 8, 2022, in St. Ignace, Mich.

    Hundreds of people attended the meeting at Little Bear East Arena, a local hockey facility just north of the Mackinac Bridge in the eastern Upper Peninsula, with each commenter taking up to three minutes to address the Army Corps staff seated up front. Most people expressed deep concern for the harm that construction or a potential explosion or spill from the operation of an oil pipeline tunnel could have on their children and grandchildren’s future, local residents, the Great Lakes, drinking water, tourist economy, and jobs — as well as tribal rights, tribal member survival, cultural heritage, the fishery, ecology of the Straits of Mackinac, and the climate.

    Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, was the first to speak at the Army Corps meeting against the tunnel proposal and sought to change the narrative promoted by Enbridge in its multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. “Line 5 is not about Enbridge. It is not about jobs. It is not about profit. It is about the continued existence of my people here in the State of Michigan.”

    Whitney Gravelle, President of the Bay Mills Indian Community

    “Line 5 is not about Enbridge. It is not about jobs. It is not about profit. It is about the continued existence of my people here in the State of Michigan.” — Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community

    “We rely on all of those natural resources to be able to live, to be able to support our families and just exist as Anishinaabe people,” said President Gravelle, emphasizing that more than half of Bay Mills tribe members depend on their treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather for subsistence.

    Ian Bund, venture capitalist

    Ian Bund, a venture capital investor who attended the hearing on his birthday to oppose the tunnel project, said, “There’s no evidence that Enbridge’s board of directors has approved the tunnel. Is it a PR stunt? Enbridge is largely uninsured, uninsurable, and un-bondable…. There’s no evidence how Enbridge would finance the tunnel project. One wonders if they might look to taxpayers.”

    Enbridge, in fact, lacks adequate liability insurance, according to a report released by the Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office revealing that Enbridge’s subsidiaries, not its parent company, hold Line 5’s 1953 easement and signed the proposed tunnel agreement; the assets of the subsidiaries’ parent Enbridge are inadequate to cover the costs and economic damages in the event of a moderate spill.

    Many Troubling Aspects of the Tunnel Proposal

    Enbridge wants to blast and bore an oil tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac just west of the Mackinac Bridge. Credit: Flickr

    Enbridge is proposing to bore and blast a 20-foot-in-diameter tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac to house a new Line 5 pipeline. The Canadian company’s goal is to continue for another 99 years carrying up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids a day through Line 5 and State of Michigan public trust bottomlands where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron, just west of the Mackinac Bridge.

    FLOW and our partners have identified critical deficiencies in the project’s construction permit application, its legal authorization, and the review by State of Michigan environmental agencies of expected impacts to wetlands, bottomlands, and surface water, including from the daily discharge of millions of gallons of wastewater during construction. FLOW has expressed continuing concerns about the impact to the Great Lakes and lack of public necessity for the project, which would worsen climate change by adding greenhouse gas emissions each year equivalent to almost seven new coal-fired power plants or nearly 6 million new cars to the road, according to experts.

    FLOW’s position, as expressed at the hearing in St. Ignace, is that the Army Corps’ environmental study of the tunnel proposal and alternatives must include, at a minimum:

    1. A no action alternative that would use existing capacity in other pipelines and, if necessary, other transportations solutions–such as rail and truck transport of natural gas liquids–in lieu of building new pipeline infrastructure.
    2. An alternative to connect Enbridge’s Superior, Wisc., and Sarnia, Ontario, terminals without crossing the Great Lakes. (See FLOW’s fact sheet on alternatives).
    3. A tunnel alternative that fully eliminates the risk of oil intrusion into the Straits in the event of an explosion or similar event.

    Tribal Nations, agencies, communities, organizations, citizens, and other stakeholders can comment on the tunnel proposal through Oct. 14, 2022, via mail, through the Army Corps project website, or at the Army Corps’ Oct. 6, 2022, online meeting. The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, of which FLOW is a founding steering committee member, also is collecting and forwarding comments to the Army Corps using an email template that suggests key points to make.

    Oil & Water Don’t Mix Campaign Mobilizes Great Lakes Advocates

    The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign chartered two buses that gathered people in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, and Traverse City to attend the Army Corps’ September 8 meeting, with FLOW, the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, and several other allied groups helping organize the effort. Many riders wore the campaign’s black t-shirts with white letters proclaiming “No Line 5 Oil Tunnel.” At the session, Enbridge and some allied trade unions also wore bright blue or orange shirts expressing support for the proposed tunnel or labor to show their solidarity.

    Kim Gribi of Traverse City

    Lana Pollack, former U.S. Chair of the International Joint Commission

    Several people, including Lana Pollack, former U.S. chair of the International Joint Commission, called Enbridge a “bad actor” with a long history of oil spills from Line 5, which runs through the Straits, and Line 6B in southern Michigan that burst in 2010 into the Kalamazoo River watershed.

    Kim Gribi, a concerned citizen from Traverse City, also pointed to Enbridge’s “bad track record.” Gribi said that with her professional background in human resources and evaluating applicants for jobs, when it comes to the tunnel project and Enbridge, “I wouldn’t hire them.”

    Barbara Stamiris of the Northern MI Environmental Action Council

    Barbara Stamiris of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council and others questioned whether the tunnel proposal was a delay tactic by Enbridge to allow the Canadian energy-transport giant to keep running its Line 5 oil pipelines indefinitely in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac, despite a standing order issued in November 2020 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to shut down the risky 69-year-old pipeline segment.

    A number of people in their public remarks in St. Ignace requested that the Army Corps extend the 60-day comment period on the proposed tunnel and hold additional in-person meetings downstate to reach more people on such a critical matter as the future of the Great Lakes and the drinking water supply.

    FLOW: There’s No Alternative to Fresh Water

    FLOW Board member Barbara Brown, a St. Ignace resident who served for 14 years on the Mackinac Bridge Authority, pointed to what the region must protect above all else: our freshwater heritage. “We are rapidly moving toward alternative forms of energy. Enbridge already has, in Line 78 [in southern Michigan], an alternative route of deliveryWhat we do not have is an alternative to water.”

    FLOW Board Member Barbara Brown, a resident of St. Ignace, Mich., addresses the Army Corps staff.

    “We are rapidly moving toward alternative forms of energy. Enbridge already has an alternative route of deliveryWhat we do not have is an alternative to water,” said Barbara Brown, FLOW Board Member and St. Ignace resident

    In fact, the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors has available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region without threatening public waters and the economy, according to multiple studies. One of Enbridge’s own experts has concluded gasoline prices will rise by about only half a penny in Michigan if the Line 5 oil pipeline shuts down.

    “We are sitting today at the very heart of 20% of the world’s fresh surface water,” Brown said. “With much of humanity and the animal world on the brink of death for want of water, and we being at the center of the largest body of fresh surface water on the planet, it is bordering on the immoral to even entertain the unnecessary, continued operation of Line 5 through the Great Lakes whether by pipe or tunnel.”

    As FLOW’s Deputy Director, I (the author of this article) helped coordinate the bus from Traverse City and in my comments, said, “The Straits of Mackinac is the worst possible place to build and operate an oil pipeline tunnel. Any rupture, explosion, or other event resulting in a major oil spill in the Straits would contaminate the very heart of the Great Lakes, which hold 95% of the fresh surface water in the United States.”

    As a result, “the Army Corps’ Environmental Impact Statement or ‘EIS’ review of the project should be scoped to eliminate the risk of a pipeline-related oil spill into the Great Lakes.” (Click to read Kelly Thayer’s full comment delivered on behalf of FLOW).

    Regional and Binational Perspectives

    Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation

    Michelle Woodhouse of Environmental Defence in Canada

    Michelle Woodhouse, representing Environmental Defence Canada, came from Toronto to convey that many Canadians want to move rapidly away from oil extraction as a key driver of the economy in order to cope with the “climate emergency.” Woodhouse also pointed to indigenous cultural artifacts in the Straits of Mackinac that could be damaged by the tunnel proposal and said “clear alternatives exists” that would not harm the Great Lakes.

    Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Regional Center, spoke next and emphasized that Enbridge’s history of nearly three dozen oil spills from Line 5 and the 2010 oil spill disaster from Line 6B in Marshall, Michigan, are forewarnings of what could happen in the Straits of Mackinac.

    Maya Ponton Aronoff pointed to better ways for Enbridge and trade workers to aid the residents of Michigan than building an oil pipeline tunnel under the Great Lakes.

    “[Enbridge] could be replacing every lead-lined water pipe in Michigan that’s poisoning our children and our communities. They could be investing in renewable energy, creating jobs in solar and wind. They could be doing anything with their billions of dollars. But they’re making us believe this lie that we have to choose between jobs and our future,” said Maya Ponton Aronoff

    “[Enbridge] could be replacing every lead-lined water pipe in Michigan that’s poisoning our children and our communities,” Ponton Aronoff said. “They could be investing in renewable energy, creating jobs in solar and wind. They could be doing anything with their billions of dollars. But they’re making us believe this lie that we have to choose between jobs and our future.”

    Army Corps Process to Continue through at Least 2023

    Enbridge’s has applied for a Army Corps permit under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and the Clean Water Act, seeking federal approval to discharge dredged or fill materials into waters of the United States, as well as the construction of structures or work that may affect navigable waters. The Army Corps also will conduct an ethnographic/traditional cultural landscape study as part of the environmental impact statement under the National Historic Preservation Act. After considering public comment and issuing the draft EIS likely by fall 2023, the Army Corps will seek additional public feedback, release a final study, and then issue a “record of decision” regarding whether to issue, issue with modification, or deny the Department of the Army permit altogether — consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act.

    The Army Corps, Detroit District, to date has identified general concerns in the following categories:

    • Potential direct effects to waters of the United States including wetlands; water and sediment quality; aquatic species and fisheries; threatened and endangered species;
    • Archaeological and cultural resources, including the Straits as a Traditional Cultural Landscape; Tribal treaty rights and interests;
    • Recreation and recreational resources; waste management; aesthetics; noise; air quality; climate change, including greenhouse gas emissions and the social cost of greenhouse gases;
    • Public health and safety during construction and operations; navigation; erosion; invasive species; energy needs; environmental justice; needs and welfare of the people; and cumulative effects.

    FLOW’s legal team aided in this effort in December 2020 by submitting comprehensive comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calling for an environmental impact statement on behalf of a dozen organizations: Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, Clean Water Action—Michigan, FLOW, Groundwork Center, League of Women Voters of Michigan, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, NMEAC, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and Environment, Straits of Mackinac Alliance, and TC 350. The comments demonstrated a serious gap in Enbridge’s evaluation of the presence of loose, unconsolidated rock and sediment in the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac that Enbridge has characterized as solid bedrock.

    Learn more about FLOW’s efforts to shut down Line 5 and stop the proposed oil pipeline tunnel on FLOW’s Line 5 program page and new Line 5 fact sheet.

    FLOW to U.S. Army Corps: Oil Tunnel in the Great Lakes Is Not a Solution

    Editor’s note: The following are comments made by FLOW Deputy Director Kelly Thayer on September 8, 2022, in St. Ignace, Michigan, at a public meeting of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). The Army Corps, Detroit District, held the session to help set the scope of its environmental impact statement (EIS) study of a proposal by Enbridge, Inc., of Canada, to build an oil tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac to house its Line 5 oil pipeline, which carries oil from western Canada primarily to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.

    Tribal Nations, agencies, communities, organizations, citizens, and other stakeholders can comment on the tunnel proposal through Oct. 14, 2022, via mail, through the Army Corps project website, or at the Army Corps’ Oct. 6, 2022, online meeting. The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, of which FLOW is a founding steering committee member, also is collecting and forwarding comments to the Army Corps using an email template that suggests key points to make.

    Learn more about FLOW’s efforts to shut down Line 5 and stop the proposed oil pipeline tunnel on FLOW’s Line 5 program page and new Line 5 fact sheet.


    Good evening. My name is Kelly Thayer. I am Deputy Director of the nonprofit organization For Love of Water or “FLOW”, the Great Lakes law and policy center located in Traverse City, Michigan.

    Kelly Thayer, FLOW Deputy Director

    Thank you to Commander Boyle and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, for this opportunity to comment. FLOW has supporters throughout the Great Lakes Basin, including right here in St. Ignace. They rely on us to ensure that the Great Lakes remain healthy, public, and protected for all.

    Simply put, the Straits of Mackinac is the worst possible place to build and operate an oil pipeline tunnel. Any rupture, explosion, or other event resulting in a major oil spill in the Straits would contaminate the very heart of the Great Lakes, which hold 95% of the fresh surface water in the United States.

    Simply put, the Straits of Mackinac is the worst possible place to build and operate an oil pipeline tunnel. Any rupture, explosion, or other event resulting in a major oil spill in the Straits would contaminate the very heart of the Great Lakes, which hold 95% of the fresh surface water in the United States.

    In the best case scenario, Enbridge-contracted, oil spill response teams would be able to remove no more than 30% of the oil from such a spill.

    With this in mind, the Army Corps’ Environmental Impact Statement or “EIS” review of the project should be scoped to eliminate the risk of a pipeline-related oil spill into the Great Lakes.

    Unfortunately, the draft purpose and need statement limits the range of risk-elimination options by focusing only on connecting Enbridge’s existing North Straits Facility and Mackinaw City pump station. The purpose and need statement should be revised to eliminate these geographic constraints and focus more generally on liquid-petroleum product transportation solutions to approximate the existing capacity of Line 5.

    The draft purpose and need statement’s language regarding the minimization of environmental risks is not specific enough in the context of project-related oil spills. The statement should be revised to include both minimizing environmental risks and avoiding any risk of a pipeline-related oil spill into the Great Lakes.

    The environmental study’s focus “should be revised to include both minimizing environmental risks and avoiding any risk of a pipeline-related oil spill into the Great Lakes.”

    The alternatives analysis must include, at a minimum:

    1. A no action alternative that would use existing capacity in other pipelines and, if necessary, other transportations solutions–such as rail and truck transport of natural gas liquids–in lieu of building new pipeline infrastructure.
    2. An alternative to connect Enbridge’s Superior, Wisc., and Sarnia, Ontario, terminals without crossing the Great Lakes.
    3. A tunnel alternative that fully eliminates the risk of oil intrusion into the Straits in the event of an explosion or similar event.

    The relative risks of the proposed oil tunnel project don’t matter when Enbridge is unlawfully operating the existing oil pipelines in the Straits.

    In performing this alternatives analysis, the EIS must evaluate the environmental risks of the proposed project independently of Enbridge’s existing oil pipeline infrastructure in the Straits.

    Nearly two years ago, the State of Michigan revoked and terminated the 1953 Easement that allegedly authorizes Enbridge to occupy state bottomlands. The relative risks of the proposed oil tunnel project don’t matter when Enbridge is unlawfully operating the existing oil pipelines in the Straits.

    FLOW looks forward to submitting written comments by the October 14, 2022, deadline, in addition to these preliminary, verbal comments.

    In short, we recommend that the Army Corps scope its EIS review of the oil tunnel project to eliminate the risk of a pipeline-related oil spill into the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water for millions of people in the United States and Canada, drive our economy, and define our way of life. Thank you.

    FLOW: Today’s Line 5 Court Decision is Bad for the State of Michigan, Bad for State Courts, and Bad for Plaintiffs

    Editor’s note: The following is a press statement from Zach Welcker, Legal Director of FLOW (For Love of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based, in response to U.S. District Judge Janet Neff’s 13-page decision today to deny the motion to remand the case to state court in Nessel v. Enbridge, filed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on June 27, 2019. Members of the media can reach Zach Welcker, FLOW Legal Director, at Zach@flowforwater.org or by cell at 231.620.7911.


    “The U.S. District Court’s decision today to exercise federal jurisdiction over the State of Michigan’s Line 5 oil pipeline lawsuit, which Line 5-owner Enbridge had previously chosen to litigate in state court for more than 2 years, is bad for the State of Michigan, bad for state courts, and bad for plaintiffs.

    “State-court defendants who have a plausible basis for federal jurisdiction are no longer obligated to seek removal within the statutory timelines established by Congress, but can now play their removal card at the time of their choosing. This gives defendants nearly unfettered discretion to seek refuge in federal court when things are not going their way in state court.

    “The effect is that the State of Michigan now will have to expend precious resources relitigating matters it has already litigated in state court for more than two years and, more generally, that federal courts are free to pull the rug out from under state-court proceedings at the whim of opportunistic defendants like Enbridge.”

    ‘A Step toward Victory for the Public and the Great Lakes’

    Editor’s Note: The following is a statement from Jim Olson, Senior Legal Advisor at FLOW (For Love of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City. The statement is in response to the decision today by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) at its regular meeting to reopen the record to gather more information on the safety and engineering of a 21-foot-diameter tunnel intended to house a new segment of the Line 5 pipeline, as proposed by Canadian oil-transport giant Enbridge. Enbridge proposes to bore and blast a tunnel through the public bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron at the very heart of the Great Lakes. The MPSC also requested additional information on the safety of the existing Line 5 oil pipelines in the open waters of the Straits, which Enbridge continues to operate in defiance of a shutdown order issued in November 2020 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. FLOW also filed a formal comment today with the MPSC.


    “Today’s approval by the Michigan Public Service Commission of an order to reopen the record and gather more information on the safety and engineering of the oil pipeline tunnel that Enbridge proposes to construct through the public bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac before making any final decision is a step toward victory for the public and the Great Lakes.

    Jim Olson, FLOW’s Founder and Senior Legal Advisor

    “The MPSC also wisely requested more information on the safety of the dangerous, nearly 70-year-old Line 5 oil pipelines in the open waters of the Great Lakes. The MPSC has once more demonstrated its strong sense of responsibility to address Line 5’s inevitable, adverse effects on the Great Lakes, communities, and the rights of the public and environment in the Great Lakes and Straits of  Mackinac.

    Today’s approval by the Michigan Public Service Commission of an order to reopen the record and gather more information on the safety and engineering of the oil pipeline tunnel that Enbridge proposes… is a step toward victory for the public and the Great Lakes.

    “More than two years after Enbridge applied for the MPSC’s approval to construct a massive, 21-foot-diameter oil tunnel under the Great Lakes, it’s clear that Enbridge has failed to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of the $1 billion-plus project and even more questions are being raised about the Line 5 oil pipelines that continue to endanger the Great Lakes, our economy, and way of life.

    Screenshot of MPSC commissioners meeting July 7, 2022, in Lansing, Mich. From left: Katherine Peretick, Chairman Dan Scripps, & Tremaine Phillips.

    “FLOW and other interested parties have identified critical deficiencies in the tunnel project’s construction permit application, its legal authorization, and the review by state environmental agencies of expected impacts to wetlands, bottomlands, and surface water, including from the daily discharge of millions of gallons of wastewater during construction. FLOW also has deep concerns about the lack of public necessity for the project, which would worsen climate change and related impacts to the Great Lakes.

    FLOW has deep concerns about the lack of public necessity for the project, which would worsen climate change and related impacts to the Great Lakes.

    Screenshot of Marshall Clabeaux, of Lansing, expresses opposition to the proposed Line 5 oil tunnel during public comment at the July 7, 2022, MPSC meeting in Lansing.

    “The MPSC’s decision to seek more safety information upholds its solemn, legal responsibility under Michigan’s constitution and environmental and public trust laws to protect people, communities, the Great Lakes, and the environment from the effects of climate change from this massive project that would facilitate the continued production and consumption of 8.3 billion gallons of oil a year for the next 99 years. 

    “No one disputes the obligations of the State and MPSC to protect the public rights of citizens in the Great Lakes. Based on Michigan Supreme Court decisions, the MPSC  is one of the ‘sworn guardians’ of the Great Lakes and the public trust rights of all citizens in Michigan. The threat of devastating physical impacts to the Straits, the fish habitat, risks to the environment, the rights of citizens for fishing, boating, swimming, drinking water and health, and the tribal culture and fishing rights are real. The effects from climate change to the Great Lakes, infrastructure, communities, health, and environment are devastating and undeniable.

    The threat of devastating physical impacts to the Straits, the fish habitat, risks to the environment, the rights of citizens for fishing, boating, swimming, drinking water and health, and the tribal culture and fishing rights are real.

    “The MPSC on April 21, 2021 ordered a full and complete hearing record on climate and environmental effects and the rights of  citizens under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA). Today’s Order is consistent with that decision and the duties of the MPSC under the MEPA and public trust law.  Under MEPA, given these likely effects, the Enbridge Line 5 tunnel project was properly remanded for a more thorough investigation of these matters. This includes consideration of reduction of greenhouse gases through alternatives to Line 5 and the Tunnel Project. 

    With society’s urgent need to tackle climate change head on and ensure freshwater security, Enbridge cannot show that its proposed fossil fuel infrastructure is a credible solution for Michigan’s 21st century just and equitable future.

    “Moreover, the tunnel and tunnel pipeline have never been authorized by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy as required by  the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and public trust law. Under these laws, the company must obtain authorization to use, not just construct, the public trust waters and submerged lands of Michigan. Enbridge has never obtained this authority. 

    “With society’s urgent need to tackle climate change head on and ensure freshwater security, Enbridge cannot show that its proposed fossil fuel infrastructure is a credible solution for Michigan’s 21st century just and equitable future.”

    Background: See FLOW’s additional coverage of the MPSC review of the Enbridge oil pipeline tunnel here: https://forloveofwater.org/?s=MPSC.

    FLOW to Michigan Public Service Commission: No Enbridge Oil Tunnel Without Authorization Under Public Trust Doctrine

    Editor’s Note: FLOW submitted the following comments today to the Michigan Public Service Commission in advance of the MPSC’s March 17, 2022, public meeting regarding Enbridge’s oil tunnel proposed through public bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac. See the MPSC’s March 17 meeting agenda, and learn about the opportunity to comment in person or online. Members of the media, please contact FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker at (231) 620-7911 or Zach@FLOWforWater.org with any questions.


    Dear Honorable Members of the Michigan Public Service Commission (“MPSC”):

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    FLOW urges the MPSC to suspend further consideration of this ill-conceived oil tunnel project until Enbridge seeks and obtains legal authorization to occupy state bottomlands from appropriate state agencies. 

    We have previously provided the MPSC with detailed analyses of this issue. Suffice it to say, Enbridge has not received authorization from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to occupy state-owned bottomlands under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, 324.32502-32508 and rules. Nor has the Department of Natural Resources made the required public trust findings to authorize a public-utility easement under Act 10, now MCL 324.2129. Without such authorization, Enbridge does not have a “legal warrant” to occupy state-owned bottomlands. See Obrecht v. Nat’l Gypsum Co., 361 Mich. 399, 416 (1960). Thus, it would be a waste of time and resources for the MPSC to continue considering Enbridge’s proposal at this time.

    If the MPSC decides, to the peril of Michiganders, to disregard Enbridge’s lack of authorization for this project, it must contend with the fact that Enbridge’s proposal to build a new oil pipeline inside a new tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac has ballooned into a supersized infrastructure project. In comparison to the original project, the diameter of the tunnel will now require a tunnel boring machine four times the size initially proposed. Correspondingly, the amount of excavated material that must be transported and disposed of has quadrupled.

    Testimony from Enbridge’s geotechnical expert, Michael Mooney, before the MPSC indicates that the tunnel must also be bored deeper than the original design, stating: “The depth to rock was determined to be deeper than assumed during the Alternative study and the resulting vertical profile takes the tunnel deeper in order to remain fully within rock. The geotechnical investigation also revealed highly fractured rock in places that would yield high groundwater pressures during construction.” On file with the MPSC, pp. 19-20.

    Yet Enbridge’s initial $500 million estimate of the cost of the tunnel has not been revised. Experts have raised a host of related geotechnical and safety concerns. Significantly, Enbridge has also recently informed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that climate concerns may limit the expected service life of the proposed tunnel to twenty years. The MPSC must accordingly reevaluate the prudence of moving forward with this project in light of these significant developments.

    FLOW: State of Michigan Takes a Strategic Step Today in the Race to Prevent a ‘Line 5’ Oil Spill

    Editor’s Note: The following is a media release issued by FLOW on November 30, 2021; please contact Executive Director Liz Kirkwood at (570) 872-4956 or Liz@FLOWforWater.org or Legal Director Zach Welcker at (231) 620-7911 or Zach@FLOWforWater.org.


    “The State of Michigan took a strategic step today in the race to prevent a catastrophic Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac by concentrating its legal efforts in state, not federal, court,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “The state’s legal fight and the citizen-led movement to protect the Great Lakes, jobs, and a way of life continue full speed ahead.”

    In response to Judge Neff’s November 16, 2021 decision to assume federal jurisdiction over the state’s 2020 case to shut down Line 5, the state has chosen to voluntarily dismiss that case and rely instead on Attorney General Dana Nessel’s 2019 lawsuit against Line 5-owner Enbridge in state circuit court in Ingham County.

    This procedural maneuver will shift consideration of the State of Michigan’s legal efforts to shut down Line 5 back to a state-court forum where the matter belongs. The State of Michigan has paramount sovereignty over the Great Lakes that cannot be severed.

    While the timing of a decision on the merits is still uncertain, dropping the 2020 case will almost certainly expedite resolution of the State Michigan’s claims because it avoids protracted litigation in federal court, which would be necessary to guarantee the State’s right to appeal Judge Neff’s legally deficient remand decision in the 2020 case.

    “It’s vitally important to recognize that the action by Governor Whitmer and Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger in November 2020 to revoke and terminate Line 5’s 1953 easement remains valid,” said FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker. “While Enbridge continues to trespass in state waters and on state bottomlands, the State of Michigan can now move forward on Attorney General Nessel’s case filed on behalf of the citizens of Michigan in 2019 to shutdown the dual pipelines in the Straits.”

    Background from FLOW:

    For more information, see FLOW’s Line 5 fact sheets and blogs:

    FLOW Deeply Disappointed in Court Decision Today Leaving State of Michigan’s Lawsuit to Shut Down ‘Line 5’ in Federal Court, Denying the State’s Request

    Editor’s Note: The following is a media release issued by FLOW on November 16, 2021; please contact Executive Director Liz Kirkwood at (570) 872-4956 or Liz@FLOWforWater.org or Senior Legal Advisor Jim Olson at (231) 499-8831 or Jim@FLOWforWater.org.

    Judge Neff’s decision today addresses only the narrow, procedural issue of whether a state or federal court should decide if the State of Michigan lawfully ordered the shutdown of the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Although the federal court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction over this matter is disappointing, it does not resolve the validity of the State’s action to protect the public’s legally revered interests in the Great Lakes. Canadian energy transport giant Enbridge continues to defy the order to shut down Line 5.

    The decision is legally deficient for multiple reasons, most notably because it failed to consider express provisions of federal law that affirm Michigan’s sovereign right to apply and enforce its own laws to protect its waters and environment. The court also did not properly consider the State’s sovereign interests as required when making a jurisdictional determination. 

    “The court overlooked the sovereign public interests of Michigan, an omission that seriously threatens not only Michigan’s sovereignty over its navigable water, but every state in the nation,” said FLOW Founder and Senior Legal Advisor Jim Olson

    The decision also threatens the sovereign interests of states by setting an extremely low bar for removing state-court lawsuits to federal court. This could result in the weaponization of federal jurisdiction by foreign corporations seeking to litigate disputes involving state law in federal court.

    “Fortunately,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, “until decided by a court, Governor Whitmer’s revocation of Line 5 stands firm. FLOW stands in solidarity with the State of Michigan as Attorney General Nessel defends the public waters of the Great Lakes in this nationally significant litigation.” 

    Background from FLOW:

    Key Context on Federal Lawsuit:

    Recent  Line 5 Analysis:

    State’s Line 5 Shutdown Deadline:

    Reality Check:

    Gov. Whitmer’s Line 5 Shutdown Order & Reaction:

    For more information, see FLOW’s Line 5 fact sheets and blogs:

    FLOW’s Blog Coverage: Line 5 blogs providing news & analysis.

    Remember When Line 5 Shut Down a Year Ago, and None of Enbridge’s Doomsaying Came True?

    Dire Straits: A damaged portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac shown in this June 2020 photo provided to the State of Michigan by Enbridge.

    By Nora Baty

    Nora Baty is a Milliken Law and Policy Intern at FLOW and a 3rd-year law student at the University of Michigan.

    Do you remember the last time Line 5 shut down? This week marks the one-year anniversary of Line 5’s closure following significant damage to an anchor support likely caused by an Enbridge-contracted vessel.

    Research conducted by former Dow Chemical engineer Gary Street found that in August 2020, after more than 50 days with at least one leg of Line 5 closed due to damage from a cable strike, gasoline prices and supply were unaffected in Michigan and Canada. While gasoline consumption during the pandemic was down from previous years in August 2020, the finding is consistent with a 2018 independent analysis. That study found that shutting down Line 5 was unlikely to significantly impact consumer prices at the pump, with a forecasted increase of less than one cent per gallon, and that Michigan’s energy needs could be met without Line 5. (See also, “Fact Check: When Line 5 Shuts Down, Detroit Jets Will Still Fly and Union Refinery Jobs Will Still Exist”).

    Enbridge continues to operate Line 5 in direct violation of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s lawful shutdown order, with the Canadian pipeline company claiming that “shutting down Line 5 even temporarily, would have immediate and severe consequences on the economies of Michigan, Ohio, Ontario, and elsewhere.” 

    Available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors without threatening our public waters and the economy, according to FLOW’s experts. As the energy landscape shifts with the slowdown of oil and gas production, the adoption of electric vehicles, and accelerating commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Enbridge continues to operate the 68-year-old Line 5 pipelines in defiance of the law. Operating in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac since 1953, Line 5 endangers 20% of the planet’s and 84% of North America’s surface fresh water, risks devastation of coastal communities, and threatens to cause billions of dollars of damages to the environment and local and regional economies, while Enbridge continues refusing to provide financial assurances for the consequences of a spill. 

    Enbridge Line 6B’s 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan

    Line 5 is a ticking time bomb in the Straits that threatens more jobs than it sustains. Line 5 has failed at least 33 times since 1968, spilling more than 1.1 million gallons of oil in Michigan and Wisconsin. Some 3 miles of the pipeline are elevated off the public bottomlands with supports meant to shore up the decaying infrastructure in fierce currents that scour the lakebed. The change in structural design has exposed the pipeline to strikes by anchors and cables, and poses an extreme navigational hazard in a busy shipping channel. (See also, “Key Facts: Line 5 and the Proposed Oil Tunnel“). 

    Pervasive organizational failures at Enbridge” caused one of the nation’s largest inland oil spills in July 2010 when its Line 6B pipeline burst near Marshall, Michigan, and for 17 hours dumped 1.2 million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed. It took four years and over $1.2 billion to clean it up to the extent possible. 

    Enbridge Line 6B was 41 years old when it failed; Enbridge Line 5 is 68 years old and counting.

    Fact Check: When Line 5 Shuts Down, Detroit Jets Will Still Fly and Union Refinery Jobs Will Still Exist

    Mackinac Straits photo by Beth Price.

    Story published May 24, 2021. UPDATED June 2, 2021 

    Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect Enbridge’s 2020 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings

    By FLOW staff

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the State of Michigan have taken legal action to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac to prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes from the dangerous and decaying, 68-year-old pipeline. Meanwhile, Line 5-owner Enbridge and its enablers continue to engage in a Chicken Little “sky is falling” campaign, with the Canadian company claiming that, “shutting down Line 5 would cause shortages of crude oil for refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and eastern Canada, as well as propane shortages in northern Michigan. Enbridge also alleges a Line 5 shutdown would boost shipments of oil by rail or trucks, without providing any evidence.

    Enbridge’s misinformation campaign has been building for a few years, for example, conspiring with DTE and others in 2020 to oppose electrification, renewable energy, and climate change mitigation measures. 

    In fact, none of Enbridge’s predictions of an energy shortage materialized when both legs of the dual Line 5 pipelines in the Straits were shut down for more than a week in June 2020 and one leg remained closed until about mid-September following damage that the U.S. Coast Guard said likely was caused by an Enbridge-contracted vessel. Research conducted by former Dow Chemical engineer Gary Street found that gasoline prices and supply were unaffected in Michigan and Canada after more than 50 days of a court-ordered Line 5 shutdown in the summer of 2020.

    The research results are consistent with these studies forecasting little, if any, change in energy costs after Line 5 shuts down for good:

    The shutdown of Line 5 won’t lead to fuel shortfalls because available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors.

    • Available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors without threatening our public waters and Pure Michigan economy, according to FLOW’s experts.
    • Shutting down Line 5 is unlikely to significantly impact gasoline prices (an increase of less than once cent per gallon is forecast), according to a 2018 study conducted by London Economics International, LLC, a Boston-based consultancy, and commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.
    • Shutting down Line 5 would add just five cents to the cost of a gallon of propane, which has hovered around $2 for the past year, according to a 2018 study conducted by London Economics International, LLC, a Boston-based consultancy, and commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.
    • The Upper Peninsula has viable options to Line 5 for its propane supply and economy, according to FLOW’s research.
    • Oil & Water Don’t Mix has a great animated video showing how the Upper Peninsula does not need Line 5’s propane.

    Another claim regarding the impact of a Line 5 shutdown emerged last year from management of the PBF refinery in Toledo, Ohio. Likely at Enbridge’s behest, PBF warned of a refinery shutdown and loss of a thousand jobs if the supply provided by Line 5 is no longer available. The Toledo refinery, PBF suggested, has no other source of petroleum.

    This assertion immediately raised the question: What kind of refinery management would leave itself vulnerable by receiving crude from only one source? It also directly contradicts statements PBF says in its own investor filings, as well as reports from market analysts. They emphasize that PBF refinery has several sources of supply and can adjust them depending on market conditions.

    “The [PBF] refinery only processes light/medium and sweet crude and gets most of its WTI crude through pipeline from Canada, the mid-Continent, the Bakken region and the U.S. Gulf Coast,” an analyst says. Another credits PBF with using “its complex crude processing capacity to source the lowest cost input.” PBF says in its 2020 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that crude is delivered to its facility through three primary pipelines, Enbridge from the north, Patoka from the west, and Mid-Valley from the south. Crude is also delivered to a nearby terminal by rail and from local sources by a truck-to-truck unloading facility in the refinery property.

    Formerly the PBF refinery was supplied in part by the Capline pipeline. However, the energy market is shifting dramatically and the Capline pipeline is being reversed, demonstrating that the system is flexible and can adapt to changing markets without shutting down the refinery.

    The fact is that multiple alternative pipelines, rail, and truck sources are and will be available to enable PBF to continue refining petroleum as it is today. No credible evidence points to job loss in Toledo from a Line 5 shutdown. And PBF itself said in a September 2017 news story challenging EPA regulations because of alleged job losses that the Toledo refinery employed 550, not 1,000, workers.

    After Line 5 is shut down, the small percentage of its light crude coming to U.S. refineries could be supplied by other sources currently serving the region, including the Patoka and Mid-Valley pipelines, along with crude from Northern Michigan oil wells.

    Fanning the fears of employees and communities with false and inflated claims is the latest in a series of tactics deployed by Enbridge and its enablers. Their goal is to pressure Michigan officials into letting the company continue to occupy the public bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac with its antiquated Line 5 pipeline, and later, a proposed oil pipeline tunnel under the lakebed.

    PBF also claims that a feared Toledo refinery shutdown, which research cited above dispels, would seriously impinge on the supply of jet fuel at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, driving up fares or reducing flights, or both. The claim is that 40% of the jet fuel used at the airport comes from refined Line 5 petroleum. But PBF and the Marathon Detroit refineries appear to supply only about 9% of the jet fuel used at the airport each day, and again alternative pipeline sources can more than make that up.

    It is worth noting that prior to PBF’s claims made in 2019, the impacts of a Line 5 shutdown on Metro Airport jet fuel had never before been raised as an issue in the Line 5 debate. Now Canadian officials are singing the same tune to bring political pressure on the Whitmer administration, claiming that Line 5 “is the single largest supply for gasoline, ultimately, in southern Ontario; for aviation fuel out of the Detroit airport; for heating fuel in northern Michigan; for the refineries in northern Ohio that fuel much of the Midwest U.S. economy.”

    For its part, Enbridge has a track record of misleading the public and governments about its performance, including failure for 3 years to report bare spots in the protective coating on Line 5 in the Straits, violating for several years the safety conditions of its easement agreement to occupy the public waters and bottomlands of the Straits, and running a dubious advertising campaign claiming to protect Michigan’s water. Enbridge’s and its allies’ recent claims are consistent with the company’s apparent philosophy of avoiding transparency and saying anything to keep Line 5 petroleum and profits flowing.

    Key Facts, in a Nutshell

    Jobs! Let’s talk jobs! 

    If the Great Lakes region were a country, it would have a GDP of US$6 trillion making it the third largest economy in the world. In fact, a new report analysing the 83 coastal counties along the Great Lakes has found that the Great Lakes support more than 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually. Continuing to operate the decaying Line 5 risks many jobs, while shutting down Line 5 will protect hundreds of thousands of jobs in Michigan’s tourism economy. According to a FLOW-commissioned report in May 2018 conducted by a Michigan State University ecological economist, direct spending by tourists supports approximately 221,420 jobs, and the total tourism economy in 2016, including direct, indirect, and induced impacts, supported 337,490 jobs—approximately 6.1% of total employment in Michigan.

    Toledo PBF Refinery 

    • Enbridge and fossil-fuel industry allies have a track record of false and unsubstantiated claims and a lack of transparency.
    • The numbers are inflated:
      • Enbridge and refineries and some politicians are misleading the public. They falsely claim that the two Toledo refineries and one Detroit refinery, and by extension the jobs there, are fully and wholly dependent on Line 5. The refineries supposedly affected are: Marathon-Detroit; BP-Husky-Toledo — which carries no Line 5 feedstock because it’s a tar sands refinery that takes feedstock from Line 78 (formerly Line 6B), and PBF-Toledo. PBF states in its 2020 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it “processes a slate of light, sweet crudes from Canada, the Mid-continent, the Bakken region and the U.S. Gulf Coast.”
      • The Patoka pipeline and the Mid-Valley pipeline supply PBF with oil and the refinery receives oil from rail and truck.
      • The refineries rely on multiple pipelines and suppliers, and they say so in writing.
      • Marathon refinery primarily uses dilbit, which Line 5 doesn’t currently carry.

    Detroit Metropolitan Airport

    • In a letter to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine claimed, “our refineries supply the majority of aviation fuels to Detroit Metro Airport” and asserted that the shutdown of Line 5 would lead to airline schedule disruptions.
    • But 2020 jet fuel consumption at Detroit Metro will total 1,658,000 gallons per day, according to a 2010 estimate by the airport. Based on numbers published by PBF, BP Husky and Marathon Refineries, Line 5 appears to supply only about 10% of the jet fuel at Detroit Metro Airport, not 40% as claimed by Ohio Gov. DeWine. Both Marathon and PBF have other crude oil sources, and therefore other pipelines could provide feedstock to satisfy regional jet fuel needs. Alternatively, other nearby refineries in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio could make up this shortfall.

    Bottom line: Shutting down Line 5 will protect hundreds of thousands of jobs. A Line 5 shutdown would not significantly impact jobs at Toledo, Ohio, refineries. There is absolutely no evidence that a shutdown would impair operations at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

    Sources: