Line 5 Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac

There are right and wrong places for oil transportation. In the Great Lakes, 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids run through the line 5 pipelines along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac each day.

This 65-year-old pipeline was designed for a 50-year lifespan and has never been in compliance with the original easement agreement. The state of Michigan has an easement agreement with Enbridge that requires – among other measures – protective coating and proper supports, provisions which have each been violated, as well as a standard of “due care”. This pipeline poses an urgent and immediate risk of failure, which would cause an unprecedented disaster to Lakes Michigan and Huron, and the economies and ecosystems which depend upon them, for decades to come.

As the video below depicts, the Straits are uniquely treacherous and unpredictable, leading the author of the University of Michigan study to conclude this is the “worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes”.

The state of Michigan is in a unique position to address this issue head on. The state has full legal authority to revoke the easement and shut down the pipeline as a safeguard to the citizens of Michigan. Under the easement, the Attorney General or Governor can notify Enbridge of those violations, call for their cure, and if not cured within 90 days, then can take action in court to terminate the easement (and stop product flow in that section of pipeline).

The conditions have changed significantly since an anchor strike caused a leak in electrical lines along the bottom of the Straits and put 3 dents in Line 5. Leaders on both sides of the aisle are calling for an immediate discontinuation of oil and natural gas liquids transport until the line is proven safe. Unfortunately, both state decision makers, the Attorney General and Governor, have indicated they will support a tunnel replacement plan. A tunnel through the Great Lakes has not been thoroughly studied and any review must address permitting and legal challenges that have not been appropriately considered to-date. A conservative estimate for any replacement tunnel, in this location, would be a decade worth of planning and construction. Line 5 can not continue to operate in the interim and decommissioning of Line 5 needs to occur while this alternative, or any other, is being properly studied. Therefore, we are advocating for the following:

The 65-year-old Line 5 pipeline poses an immediate threat to our businesses, economy and way of life. Discussion of building a tunnel is a diversion from the key issues and simply kicks the can down the road. What we need are decision makers who take all necessary steps to quickly and efficiently decommission the Straits section of pipeline to protect our way of life. Independent studies have shown that Michigan is not dependent on Line 5 and that practical and immediate alternatives exist. Constructing a utility tunnel has not been properly vetted, would take significant time and resources to complete and should not be a factor in the decision to decommission the current pipeline as soon as possible.