ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s decision today to terminate the easement for Line 5 — Enbridge Energy’s aging oil pipeline on the bottom the Straits of Mackinac — is a historic win for the Great Lakes, wildlife, and climate action. The decision, which will require a closure by May 12, will finally shut the door on a pipeline that has threatened to spill millions of gallons of oil into the largest freshwater lakes in the world, essential habitat for wildlife, and the foundation of local economies. The governor released the results of her administration’s easement review, which had incontrovertible evidence of multiple violations which are not able to be fixed.
“Governor Whitmer’s decision to shut down Line 5 will finally safeguard the Great Lakes and the people and wildlife who rely on them from an ecological, economic, and public health catastrophe. Thank you to Governor Whitmer, Attorney General Nessel, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger, and all of the organizations who have worked for years to retire this decrepit pipeline,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This historic decision sends a clear message that we are absolutely not willing to risk the Great Lakes and the critical role they play in America’s economy and way of life.”
“Line 5 should have never been built. I commend Governor Whitmer for bravely correcting this wrong and standing up for Michigan and the Great Lakes. Seven hundred miles of Great Lakes shoreline, northern Michigan’s regional tourism economy, 60,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat, and irreplaceable tribal and cultural resources are at risk from a rupture from this poorly built and poorly managed pipeline,” said Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. “This governor’s just, courageous, and fact-based decision will benefit our nation’s transition to clean and renewable energy and will help restore Michigan’s place as a leader in clean water protection. We look forward to working with the governor, Attorney General Nessel, Michigan lawmakers and unions to ensure this decision leads to a job-rich, community-centered transition that keeps energy costs low. As detailed in an Enbridge-funded analysis, decommissioning and removing all of Line 5 would create more construction jobs than any other alternative, including building a tunnel.”
The National Wildlife Federation was the first organization to recognize the threat that Line 5 poses via the landmark 2012 “Sunken Hazard” report. Since then, the National Wildlife Federation has partnered with numerous allies and led efforts to shut down Line 5, including commissioning the seminal University of Michigan studies of the risks Line 5 poses, sending divers to inspect the pipelines, commissioning the definitive reports on alternatives to Line 5 — which critically showed that fuel supplies to Michigan manufacturing plants would not be affected by shutting down Line 5 — being appointed to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, and running sophisticated and effective public education campaigns.
The more than six-decade-old Line 5 pipeline, operated by Enbridge Energy, carries up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ontario, taking a shortcut through Michigan and along the lake bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The Mackinac Straits section of Line 5, designed to last 50 years, has been plagued by a range of issues, including missing protective coatings to multiple strikes by anchors and other objects. The pipeline lies in what University of Michigan researchers have called “the worst possible place for an oil spill” in the Great Lakes.
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