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Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources have revoked Enbridge’s easement for the operation of the twin Line 5 pipeline, citing repeated violations of the easement and the need to protect the Great Lakes.
“The state is revoking the easement for violation of the public trust doctrine, given the unreasonable risk that continued operation of the dual pipelines poses to the Great Lakes,” an official statement said. “Moreover, the state is terminating the easement based on Enbridge’s persistent and incurable violations of the easement’s terms and conditions.”
The twin pipelines have been in operation for 65 years, which prompted the Canadian pipeline operator to propose a replacement of a section of the pipes with new ones a few years ago. The Michigan Legislature approved it in late 2018.
However, the replacement project sparked the outrage of environmentalists and Native American communities in the area. The opponents argued that a proposed tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to house the pipeline will increase the risk of oil spills in a basin that provides drinking water to some 40 million people.
Lawsuits temporarily stopped work on the replacement, but Enbridge recently won one at the Michigan Circuit Court that allowed it to restart work. The project also won the approval of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
“Here in Michigan, the Great Lakes define our borders, but they also define who we are as people. Enbridge has routinely refused to take action to protect our Great Lakes and the millions of Americans who depend on them for clean drinking water and good jobs. They have repeatedly violated the terms of the 1953 easement by ignoring structural problems that put our Great Lakes and our families at risk,” Governor Whitmer said last week.
Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney called the move concerning.
“The impact of this would be devastating,” Kenney said, as quoted by Global News. “It is the single largest supply of 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, so this is a very very big deal.”
Enbridge, for its part, said the pipeline is safe, as evidenced by the recently granted PHMSA approval of the replacement project.
“Line 5 remains safe, as envisioned by the 1953 Easement, and as recently validated by our federal safety regulator,” Enbridge Liquids Pipelines executive vice president and president Vern Yu said in a statement. “We will continue to focus on the safe operation of the dual Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac, ensuring the Great Lakes are protected while also reliably delivering the energy that helps to fuel Michigan’s and the region’s economy.”
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com