Resolution sought: Senators plead case for keeping pipeline open

Larry Limpf

As a deadline to close a major pipeline in the Mackinac Straits in Michigan neared, two legislators pushed for a resolution in the Ohio Senate to urge the administration in Michigan to keep the line operating.
Senators Theresa Gavarone, R – Bowling Green, and Ken Yuko, D – Richmond Heights, provided testimony Wednesday before the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, asking the committee to support Resolution 41 and press Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Daniel Eichinger, who heads the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, to keep the Enbridge Line 5 operating.
Last November, Gov. Whitmer moved to revoke an easement Enbridge has held for the twin pipelines since 1953. The governor cited safety and environmental concerns as her reasons and gave Enbridge 180 days to prepare for a shutdown of the line – a deadline that came last week.
Senators Gavarone and Yuko both emphasized the economic impact a closure would have on Ohio and Michigan.
“The closure of Line 5 would devastate the lives of 1,200 plus employees who work at the PBF Energy Toledo Refining Co. and the BP-Husky Toledo Refinery – both Lucas County employers,” Sen. Gavarone said.
Citing a study by the Consumer Energy Alliance, she said, “Ohio could lose up to $13.7 billion in economic activity, $147.9 million in state revenue and over 20,000 jobs from the shutdown of the….pipeline.
“To be clear, I do not believe Gov. Whitmer’s original order was meant to unnecessarily harm anyone. But the reality is that the closure of Line 5 would affect a countless number of American and Canadian citizens.”
In April 2018, the pipeline was struck by an anchor and the U.S. Coast Guard later approved a “no anchor” zone along the Straits. Enbridge, headquartered in Calgary, Canada, announced later that year it had reached an agreement with the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority to replace Line 5 with a pipeline in a tunnel bored under the lake bed but the constitutionality of the legislation to allow for the tunnel has been an on-going battle in the courts.
Sen. Yuko told the committee a new pipeline would be an economic boon for the mid-west.
“This pipeline project would create a much safer method for transporting crude oil. The proposed project to build a tunnel deep beneath the Straits and replacement line in the tunnel will protect both the environment and high-wage, family sustaining jobs,” he said. “A premature shutdown of Line 5 would threaten the livelihoods of our workers and their families, as there are no feasible alternatives to supply the crude products needed for these refineries in Toledo.”
Gov. Whitmer also threatened last week to take legal steps to seize the company’s profits from the pipeline if it persisted in operating after the deadline but Enbridge management has contended responsibility for a forced shut down lies with federal authorities.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has filed an amicus brief in a related case, arguing the shutdown order should be paused while Canada and the U.S. discuss whether a closure would violate a 1977 treaty between the countries.
The brief, filed in U.S. Court for the Southern Michigan District, says: “While a shutdown that is inconsistent with governing law should be avoided under all circumstances, in any event, there should be no shutdown before the Governments of the United States and Canada complete their efforts to resolve this matter, pursuant to their bilateral treaty, which directly addresses transit pipelines such as Line 5. The shutdown order that Michigan seeks to enforce poses grave concerns for Canada at two distinct levels: first, for Canada’s ability to rely on bilateral treaties that are at the heart of the U.S. - Canada relationship, and second, for Canada’s energy security and economic prosperity.”
Environmental groups, including For Love of Water, have been critical of a prior agreement between the state and Enbridge that allowed for the continued operation of the pipeline for seven to 10 years – the estimated time required to design and build a new pipeline.
Among other concerns, FLOW says the agreement doesn’t provide sufficient financial guarantees by Enbridge to mitigate the threat of a pipeline failure.
In addition, they point to a spill by the company of nearly 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.


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