Straits of Mackinac (Canstock Photo by ehrlif)Straits of Mackinac (Canstock Photo by ehrlif)

Enbridge Line 5 flow to continue despite Michigan governor's deadline

No disruption in flow through Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline is expected Wednesday, the deadline set by the State of Michigan to shut down the controversial pipeline.

In November 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that effective May 12, 2021, she was revoking the 68-year-old easement allowing the line to operate beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley believes it's an artificial deadline.

"It's my belief that the pipeline will continue to operate. What we need to do is straighten out what's been happening between the State of Michigan and Enbridge, which could have dire consequences for Alberta, Ontario and Quebec if the line was shut down at any point in time," said Bradley. "We're talking about thousands of jobs directly in Sarnia, thousands of jobs across Ontario and Quebec, we're talking about increased fuel prices dramatically."

Bradley said the environment will also be impacted if the line is shut down.

"We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of more trucks on the highways, we're talking about hundreds and hundreds of more rail-cars, we're talking about more oil barges, and that's not environmentally friendly versus one pipeline that has worked well for 70 years."

Tuesday, Canada's Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan announced the federal government has filed documents in U.S. federal court formally opposing the line's closure.

"Given that we have a treaty with the U.S. that applies to Line 5, it's called the Pipeline Transit Treaty of 1977, Michigan should not be able to unilaterally close Line 5," O'Regan told Blackburn News in an interview. "We believe the federal court has jurisdiction."

O'Regan said the so-called amicus brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan supports continued mediation between Enbridge and the State of Michigan.

"At this time, no court has ordered Line 5 shut down, and in the absence of a court order Line 5 will continue to operate. Mediation will be ongoing, they've had two meetings, they'll have another one later this month and we feel confident in the process, we feel confident that the best resolution will be reached."

Bradley said he would prefer a mediated solution.

"If it doesn't work, we need a political solution, and that means Justin Trudeau directly to Joe Biden saying let's not go back over the last four years. We thought we had a new start, a new government, which we philosophically are very attuned to. Let's get on with keeping this line operating and get back to a normal Canadian-U.S. relationship."

Environmental groups and First Nations want the line closed.

Earlier this month, Anishinabek Nation leadership announced its support for closure.

Line 5, which runs between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, carries crude oil and natural gas liquids used in propane to industries in the city, and elsewhere in the province and Quebec.

Michigan has said it’s taking the action to avert a potentially catastrophic oil spill.

Calgary-based Enbridge said the State’s action violates federal law and it has no intention of shutting the line down based on unspecified allegations. The company said Line 5 will continue to operate safely while it focuses on plans to construct a 6.4-kilometre tunnel to replace the lines beneath the straits.

-With files from Josh Boyce & Dave Dentinger

Read More Local Stories