Editor’s Note: FLOW today resubmitted the following formal comments from February to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority in advance of the Authority’s 10 a.m. public meeting in St. Ignace regarding Enbridge’s oil tunnel proposed through public bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac. See the Authority’s June 7, 2022, 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 Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (“MSCA”):
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
FLOW urges the MSCA 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.
FLOW urges the MSCA 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 MSCA with detailed analyses of this issue and hereby incorporate those by reference in lieu of repeating them here. See FLOW’s September 21, 2021 Letter; FLOW’s March 5, 2020 Comments; FLOW’s December 18, 2018 Comments; oral testimony to the MSCA on March 6, 2020, February 3, 2021, and October 13, 2021. Suffice to say, Enbridge has not received authorization from EGLE to occupy state-owned bottomlands under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, 324.32502-32508 and rules. Nor has the DNR 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 MSCA to continue considering Enbridge’s proposal at this time.
If the MSCA 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 Michigan Public Service Commission (“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 MSCA must accordingly reevaluate the prudence of moving forward with this project in light of these significant developments.
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.
Editor’s Note: The following isa media release issued by FLOW on November 30, 2021; please contact Executive Director Liz Kirkwood at (570) 872-4956 orLiz@FLOWforWater.orgor 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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
Photo (from left): Winona LaDuke, Holly Bird, and FLOW’s Liz Kirkwood on May 13 at the Straits of Mackinac. Photo by Beth Price.
By Liz Kirkwood, FLOW Executive Director
May 13 marked an inflection point in FLOW’s water and climate work to shut down Line 5. It was a day of action and a show of force to evict Enbridge as an occupier—a rogue Canadian pipeline company pumping oil through our public waters and lands of the Great Lakes. It was a day highlighting the power of community and solidarity, and the power of indigenous leadership in protecting the source of all life: water.
Just the day before, Enbridge blatantly defied and violated Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s deadline ordering the shutdown of the Line 5 pipelines. Defending our waters in her usual bold style, Governor Whitmer warned that Enbridge’s failure to obey would result in intentional trespass and disgorgement of 100 percent of Enbridge’s oil profits gained every day from illegally operating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. (Read Gov. Whitmer’s reasons for shutting down Line 5 in her own words).
Organized by the first peoples of North America and the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, this day-long event drew over 400 allies to deliver an eviction notice to Enbridge, to participate in a water walk and ceremony, and to hear from leaders about the urgent need to tackle climate change and shift to a clean energy economy. As water protectors, women tribal members led the group in traditional water ceremonies and told stories of our relationship to water. Tribal President Whitney Gravelle from the Bay Mills Indian Community conveyed that her tribe had voted to formally banished Enbridge and its pipeline from their legally recognized treaty waters. (Read coverage here of tribal protests that began the day prior at the Straits and continued into May 13).
Nationally recognized indigenous voice, author, and anti-pipeline organizer Winona LaDuke, who directs Honor the Earth in Minnesota, spoke passionately about the danger posed by Line 5 to the Straits, which have played a key role in both tribal and non-tribal heritage and culture for centuries.
“This rogue Canadian corporation is basically holding the Great Lakes hostage,” LaDuke told FLOW in an interview after her speech. “In state after state, they are scaring officials. But here in Michigan, your governor, your attorney general have stood up for the people and for the water. We don’t need a Canadian multinational holding us all hostage. And that’s right now what they’re doing.”
“The question I would ask is, ‘Who gets the honor of being the last Tar Sands pipeline? Who gets that honor?’ It’s kind of like being the last guy to die in Vietnam, isn’t it? Who wants to tell that soldier he’s the last man to die for an unjust war? Who wants to tell some Ojibwe that they’re the last people to have their water contaminated so that Enbridge can make a buck?”
Demonstrating the deep commitment and solidarity among indigenous nations, tribal members from Minnesota, where they are fighting another Enbridge pipeline—Line 3, actively participated in the May 13 event.
I joined the event on behalf of FLOW, representing our eight years of effort making the case that public trust principles and law give the State of Michigan the authority—and the duty—to expel Line 5 from the Straits in order to protect the world’s greatest freshwater system. Enbridge’s track record of pipeline mismanagement and deception—leading to the largest and most devastating oil spill in Michigan’s history in the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010—bodes ill for the Straits, their ecology and the jobs that depend on them.
I am proud that it was FLOW that first identified the public trust doctrine as the basis for protecting these waters from the pipeline. Now Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have explicitly invoked that doctrine in seeking to shut down the pipeline.
In this week’s installment of FLOW’s business supporter spotlight, Development Specialist Calli Crow connected with Beth Price Photography to talk about Beth Price’s love of water, passion for Great Lakes protection, and ongoing partnership with FLOW.
Beth Price Photography is a Northern Michigan-based company and longtime FLOW business supporter drawing inspiration from the natural beauty of the abundant freshwater of the Great Lakes. Beth’s colorful, light-infused, textural Freshwater Photography is visually gorgeous, and, perhaps more meaningfully, inspires that deep connection to life-giving water in others that fuels positive action! You can see her inspiring photography featured frequently in FLOW’s advocacy campaigns.
The meaningful and continuing collaboration between Beth Price Photography and FLOW began back in December 2016 with the gallery opening of In Water: A Photographic Exploration at Space in Traverse City, following her works’ debut at the Fresh Coast Film Festival in Marquette, Michigan. Price generously donated the proceeds from the 2016 Traverse City opening to FLOW and has been inspiring Great Lakes protection through her photography ever since.
The synergy continues on May 13, one day past the state deadline to stop the flow of Line 5 oil in the Straits of Mackinac. Beth Price and FLOW’s Liz Kirkwood today are joining hundreds of advocates led by the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign at the May 13 Shut Down Line 5 Rally in Mackinaw City. We invite you to look for real-time updates and Price’s stunning photography live from the rally on FLOW’s Instagram and Facebook.
Calli Crow: Beth, can you tell us about your relationship to water and how it inspires your creativity and connection to community?
Beth Price: My connection to water feels innate, like it has always been me. When I was nine, my family moved to Long Lake near Traverse City, and that’s where I gained my love and foundation. I learned to meditate there and formed a relationship with water. When I’m in the water, I lose sense of time and all obligations. I’m in my FLOW! Pun intended! The spiritual connection to the water and the light and color palette of Northwest Michigan inspire me to endless creativity. Regarding community, the dynamic beauty draws like-minded people. I love the people who love the water and adventure with me in the unpredictable weather and sometimes adverse conditions. We are connected through our shared experiences and love, and it continuously inspires new ideas in me.
CC: What is your favorite thing about living near so much fresh water?
BP: I daily think about how fortunate I am to spend days, weeks, months, years in Northwest Michigan around so much fresh water! Fortunate, where my great fortune lies. Fortune isn’t always monetary!
CC: You’ve been collaborating with FLOW for almost 5 years now! Why do you support FLOW’s work?
BP: When I launched the Great Lakes Surf Photography project, my goal was to partner and collaborate with organizations that advocate for the water. FLOW came highly recommended by Jim Bruckbrauer of Groundwork, and it was a natural fit. FLOW is unique in offering an intelligent, experienced, dedicated legal team, and I’m so appreciative because my brain can’t wrap around the technical aspects of the issues that FLOW tackles. I’m so grateful to be able to align myself with that caliber of work and through collaboration mutually increase our impact. Personally, another positive impact of being involved with FLOW is how it has elevated my knowledge on issues and helped me be a better advocate for freshwater and the Great Lakes through my camera!
CC: What do you think is the biggest threat to the Great Lakes?
BP: Human beings are the biggest threat even though we have the knowledge and power to change. In my lifetime, we’ve seen so much change: in little things like packaging and big things like educating the masses on important issues. But to save our Great Lakes from the threats like Line 5, it’s going to take a collective. Collective is a big word, and it needs to be across the board, all of us taking care of the public trust.
To learn more about how your business can collaborate with FLOW, contact Calli Crow, Development Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This morning along East Grand Traverse Bay, the drinking water source for Traverse City, Liz Kirkwood explains why Enbridge’s decision to ignore the law amounts to privatizing the Great Lakes and the Public Trust.
Sixty-eight years ago, Enbridge’s predecessor, Lakehead Pipeline Company, chose this vulnerable location as the shortest distance to transport Canadian oil back to Canada. In 1953, the public, political leaders, and pipeline operators had not yet experienced catastrophic oil spills like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, BP Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, or Enbridge’s own Line 6B Kalamazoo River disaster in southern Michigan.
Now, despite the well-documented and lasting economic and ecological harm of oil pipeline disasters across the globe, we are witnessing intense, orchestrated opposition from Canada’s Enbridge and its allies to shutting down a clear-and-present danger to Michigan’s waters and way of life. A Line 5 oil spill would be an unprecedented ecological and economic disaster in the Great Lakes, threatening 84% of North America’s surface fresh water and some 20 percent of the planet’s fresh surface water, devastating coastal communities, and causing billions of dollars of damages to the environment and local and regional economy.
Line 5’s original design intended the dual pipelines to lie upon the lakebed and was subject to a detailed and comprehensive engineering evaluation of 20 specific areas, including written determinations of fitness that were certified by consulting engineers. Now, after decades of patchwork repairs to shore up the decaying infrastructure, as much as 3 miles of pipelines are elevated above the lakebed floor and prone to physical hazards such as anchor strikes in the busy shipping channel of the Straits of Mackinac.
After extensive legal review of Enbridge’s incurable violations in public trust waters, the governor and the Department of Natural Resources took decisive legal action to defend the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill under the state’s sovereign public trust law. Leaders in 16 states and the District of Columbia and four tribes have taken Michigan’s side in its fight to have a state court, not a federal judge, decide whether the state has the authority to shutter Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.
In refusing to shut down Line 5 per the Governor’s order, Enbridge’s flagrant disregard for the law exposes a deep-rooted and reckless corporate culture of exceptionalism that includes the following:
Engaging in a targeted, sophisticated misinformation media strategy through Enbridge’s front group affiliate Consumer Energy Alliance.
Gov. Whitmer on Tuesday pledged in a letter to seize any profits that Enbridge makes from operating Line 5 after today’s midnight shutdown deadline, alleging it would constitute trespass and unjust enrichment. Also on Tuesday, several federally recognized tribes in Michigan took legal steps under tribal law to limit Enbridge and the threat from Line 5. Bay Mills Indian Community in the Upper Peninsula, as well as a five-tribe organization including Bay Mills that manages the fishery in the Straits of Mackinac, voted to banish Enbridge’s Line 5 from its territory. Banishment is a legal action that is considered a punishment of last resort in tribal law.
“This was the first, necessary step in banishing Enbridge from these waters,” said Bay Mills chairperson Whitney Gravelle, who said the move applies to the reservation and treaty-ceded waters. “We’re calling on the state and the United States to enforce this banishment.”
Michiganders have not forgotten Enbridge’s epic failure and legacy of the million-gallon, Line 6B oil spill disaster into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 that drove dozens of families permanently from their homes and cost an estimated $1.2 billion in cleanup costs, damages, and restoration.
“The Enbridge Kalamazoo River spill of 2010 was a real thing — people remember it,” said David Holtz, spokesman for the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign. “They understand that oil still lies at the bottom of that river, and that a million gallons were spilled. They understand that could happen again times 10 in the Straits of Mackinac — no matter what Enbridge says in its million-dollar ad buys.”
As part of “a sophisticated public affairs strategy,” Enbridge and its ally Consumer Energy Alliance—a national oil industry front group—continue to claim that shutting down Line 5 could lead to propane and oil shortages and increased prices harming Michigan consumers. However, the vast majority of the liquids shipped via Line 5 do not supply Michigan, and an independent analysis found that shutting down Line 5 was unlikely to significantly impact consumer prices at the pump (less than one cent per gallon) and that Michigan’s energy needs could be met without Line 5. 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 an cable strike, gasoline prices and supply were unaffected in Michigan and Canada.
But not everyone is waiting around. In fact,several oil companies seeking alternatives to Line 5 have contingency plans put in place. Suncor Energy purchased a stake in the Portland-Montreal pipeline to import oil from Maine to Montreal if Line 5 is shut down. Toronto’s Pearson Airport has stated that its fuel sources are “diversified and consequently not at risk.”
Line 5 also threatens our climate and water security in an increasingly hot and thirsty world. Each year, Line 5 pumps out more than 57 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the combined operation of the nation’s three largest coal plants. Dismissing the climate emergency, Enbridge and its political allies in the U.S. and Canada promote energy security alone and insist that “the operation of Line 5 is non-negotiable.”
This strident reaction from Canadian politicians stems in part from the fact that Canadians have rejected building any new pipelines in the last decade in their own country going east or west to the coasts for export. In this pipeline battle, the Anishinabek Nation says the Canadian government isputting the oil and gas industry ahead of the Great Lakeswith its support for the Line 5 pipeline. The Great Lakes are international water bodies, and Canadians should be just as concerned for their protection as the United States.
The Great Lakes support over 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in U.S. wages annually, with 350,000 of those jobs in Michigan alone. More than 48 million Americans and Canadians draw their drinking water from the Great Lakes. Line 5 represents an unacceptable risk to the jobs and economy of the Great Lakes region, drinking water, and tribal treaty and fishing rights. While Enbridge might refuse for now to stop Line 5’s oil flow or collaborate in the global energy transition, for the future prosperity of Michigan, the Great Lakes, and the planet, we all must transition away from Enbridge.
About the authors:
Liz Kirkwood is FLOW’s executive director. Nora Baty is a third-year law student at the University of Michigan Law School and currently serving as FLOW’s Milliken Law and Policy Intern.
The Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac—which Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called on Enbridge to shut down by May 12—pose a multigenerational threat to citizens of the Great Lakes.
Take it from Sage, an 11-year-old from Oxford, Michigan, who chose to do her 5th grade final project on Line 5.
“My love for the Great Lakes,” Sage opens her essay.
“I was swimming in the crystal clear blue waters of the Great Lakes. Splashing in the refreshing water in my swimsuit and new goggles. It was a sunny day and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The golden sand on the beach shimmered when the sunlight hit it. I could see tiny little fish swimming around me. It felt like I was in a tropical paradise. I plunged into the water feeling refreshed and relaxed. As the big waves came towards my sister and I. We jumped into them feeling the coolness of the water. We swam out towards the big rock. When we got there, we saw Mom, Dad, Nana and Papa waving to us. We waved back as we stood on top of the rock. We cannonballed into the water, plunging in like someone putting ice cubes into a drink. Now imagine dark oily, dirty water with dead fish floating at the top. This could happen if Line 5 is not shut down. Enbridge Line 5 needs to be shut down.”
Read the rest of Sage’s project below:
What Is Enbridge Line 5?
Enbridge Line 5 is an oil pipeline owned by the Canadian company Enbridge Energy Inc. The Line 5 runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac. It was built in 1953 and was only meant to last 50 years. Even though the pipeline is 68 years old today, and not in good condition, it still exists. Every day, Line 5 transports 22.68 million gallons of oil. The pipeline is 645 miles long. It transports oil to Sarina, Canada. So that means that the oil pipeline is not even benefiting Michigan, in any way shape or form. Line 5 should be shut down because according to Oil And Water Don’t Mix: Every day, nearly 23 million gallons of oil flow through two aging pipelines in the heart of the Great Lakes, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. Constructed during the Eisenhower administration in 1953, the two 20-inch-in-diameter Line 5 pipelines owned by Canadian company Enbridge, Inc., lie exposed in the water at the bottom when they cross the Straits of Mackinac” (Oil And Water Don’t Mix) This is just unsafe. This is a recipe for a disaster.
Six decades of metal being underwater has to cause some damage. It is covered in algae and other sea life. It is rusty. Since Enbridge Line 5 is so old it has had to have many repairs. Just like an old person, things age and require more maintenance. As people get older, they need more procedures, surgeries, and medicine. Enbridge line 5 is the end of its life. For example, in the article, (Oil And Water Don’t Mix) Enbridge installed several support structures under the pipelines in 2006 and again in 2010 and 2018, following the company’s oil spill into the Kalamazoo River.
Now, hundreds of supports elevate 3-miles of the pipeline off the lakebed into the turbulent current. This design was never approved and makes the pipeline unsafe. In other words the pipeline is very old and could rupture at any moment. Even though Enbridge has added updates to Line 5, the pipeline is still unsafe. What are they going to do with Line 5? Because of Enbridge’s past, there is a lack of trust in them. On July 26, 2010 there was a giant oil spill operated by Enbridge.
According to Wikipedia: “The Kalamazoo River oil spill occurred in July 2010 when a pipeline operated by Enbridge burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. A 6-foot break in the pipeline resulted in one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history”. When the Kalamazoo oil spill occurred almost 1,000,000 gallons of light crude oil was spilled. Because of that, the future of The Great Lakes right now should not be in the hands of Enbridge. As the Line 5 Pipeline ages, it increases the risk of an oil spill in The Great Lakes. If the Pipeline were to rupture in The Great Lakes, then it would cost more than $1.9 BILLION DOLLARS AT LEAST to clean it up! That is a lot of money.
Here is something to help you imagine $1.9 billion dollars better. According to: Research Maniacs“If you had $1.9 billion, you could buy 63,333 cars at $30,000/each or 9,500 houses at $200,000/each. If you were to travel 1.9 billion miles, you could fly around the world 76,302 times, or take a round trip to the moon 3,977 times.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan [has given] Enbridge 180 days to shut-down the Line 5 Pipeline PERMANENTLY. But Enbridge will not shut-down the Line 5 Pipeline without a fight. So until then, The Great Lakes will be at stake.
What Can Go Wrong With Line 5? And What Would Happen To The Surrounding Areas?
Not only is Enbridge Line 5 unsafe, but it also threatens many ecosystems and the Great State of Michigan. According to the Sierra Club: “The Enbridge company is playing with fire.” and I agree. The longer the pipeline stays, the longer we risk damaging The Great Lakes and other ecosystems. The Great Lakes ecosystems include a large variety of habitats and more than 3,500 different species of animals and plants. If the Line 5 pipeline were to rupture then, it would negatively impact people, the environment and animals. Here is an example: All living things need water to survive. So if oil were to spill in the water we drink we would die. Not just people would die, but animals would die too.
Here is another example: Let’s say that we had another source of water. We would be fine for now, but all of the fish and animals would die. So then we would run out of food. If we dont start taking action, then the examples that I talked about could become the reality. The Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline is unnatural and unsafe.If Line 5 where to rupture then we would be DOOMED. First things first, we would lose 20% of the world’s fresh surface water. Second of all, everything in The Great Lakes would be dead! The fish, the and all of the ecosystems. A lot of bears and deer and a bunch of other animals would die too. That would happen because if they were to drink water from The Great Lakes after an oil spill. Then they would die because the water would be toxic. If Line 5 were to rupture, then the oil would spread through the whole Great Lakes. That would happen because all of The Great Lakes are connected and have strong currents. Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario would all be flooded in oil if Line 5 were to rupture. Michigan would lose all tourism as no one would go to Mackinac Island, Traverse City (The Cherry Capital Of The World), and other popular lakefront destinations. The economic impact would be felt for decades and recovering the state would cost billions of dollars. Michigan’s slogan “Pure Michigan”, would turn into “Crude Michigan”. That slogan does not have as good a ring as “Pure Michigan”. All outdoor activities such as fishing, camping, hunting and lots of others would disappear forever. Imagine oily, dirty water. With dead fish floating at the top and black greasy beaches with brown foam floating at the top of the water. Birds that are covered in oil drying skin and feathers being polluted.
This could become Michigan’s reality if we don’t take action and shut-down Line 5 today.