Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on March 28 that nullifies approved construction of a tunnel encased oil pipeline underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Once completed in seven to ten years, Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline would be decommissioned.
Former Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law the approval of the tunnel construction under the guise of protecting the Great Lakes. The legislation stated it would provide “a route to allow utilities to be laid without future disturbance to the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac.” Line 5, however, would have been decommissioned only after the completion of the tunnel in an estimated seven to ten years.
The Michigan Republican Party tried to do Canadian fossil fuel corporation Enbridge a major favor by not only extending the life of Line 5 but approving the new pipeline with its estimated life of 99 years.
Whitmer did not cite the protection of Michigan’s economy and 20 percent of the Earth’s freshwater in her executive order. Rather, she agreed with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s opinion that the legislation violates Michigan’s constitution. Regardless of her reasoning, Whitmer made the correct decision to halt construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure. Seven to ten more years of an operational Line 5 represents far too great a risk to the Great Lakes Basin and Michigan’s economy.
Enbridge immediately released an official statement lamenting its disappointment. The company argued that the tunnel would increase “the safety and reliability of a critical piece of infrastructure that supports the state, its communities and the environment.”
A pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac is not a critical piece of Michigan’s infrastructure. In a 2015 report, environmental group Oil and Water Don’t Mix argued that “comprehensive alternatives” to Line 5 exist, rendering the pipeline an “unacceptable risk.” It is not “vital energy infrastructure to Michigan’s economy.”
Line 5 is nothing more than a shortcut for Enbridge’s transportation of crude oil from western Canada to Ontario, Canada. The vast fossil fuel pipeline network is “flexible enough to meet existing demand if Line 5 through the Straits were decommissioned.” In addition, such a shutdown would not drastically affect the “distribution of natural gas liquids, including propane, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.” The risks of Line 5 far outweigh the rewards -- rewards that only benefit Enbridge, a Canadian-based company.
Whitmer’s decision, however, only makes sense if she plans on decommissioning Line 5 within seven years. Snyder’s legislation shuts it down, but not soon enough. If Whitmer wants what is best for Michigan, she should decommission Line 5 via executive order in 2019.
Enbridge’s record of oil spills proves why urgency is required. In 2010, its pipeline near Kalamazoo ruptured, releasing 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Michigan’s economy and the Great Lakes are in massive danger so a foreign oil company can move its product out into the global market a bit quicker.