Alberta premier and Enbridge respond to Michigan seeking shut down of Line 5 pipeline

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney calls an attempt by the Michigan government to shutdown the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline very concerning and a continued effort to landlock Canadian energy.

“The impact of this would be devastating,” Kenney said.

“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.”

Kenney made the comments on The Roy Green Show Sunday.

On Friday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took legal action to shut down the pipeline. Her office also notified Enbridge it was revoking an easement granted in 1953 to extend a 6.4-kilometre section of the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan.

In the letter to Enbridge, the government’s legal counsel said its decision was based on “a violation of the public trust doctrine” and “a longstanding, persistent pattern of noncompliance with easement conditions and the standard of due care.”

“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,” Whitmer said in a statement. “They have repeatedly violated the terms of the 1953 Easement by ignoring structural problems that put our Great Lakes and our families at risk.

“Most importantly, Enbridge has imposed on the people of Michigan an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that could devastate our economy and way of life. That’s why we’re taking action now, and why I will continue to hold accountable anyone who threatens our Great Lakes and fresh water.”

Enbridge said it is confident Line 5 continues to operate safely and “there is no credible basis for terminating” the easement.

“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 on Friday.

“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.”

The move escalates a multiyear battle over Line 5, which is part of Enbridge’s Lakehead network of pipelines that carries oil from western Canada to refineries in the U.S. and Ontario. The pipeline carries about 87 million litres of oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisc., and Sarnia, Ont.

Kenney said the pipeline has transported Alberta oil without a “significant environment incident for 60 years.” The Alberta premier said he traveled to Michigan last year to meet with Whitmer but “she refused.”

“She couldn’t see me; she couldn’t find time I guess on the schedule. But I did meet the governor of Ohio who strongly supports the continued operation of Line 5 and Premier (Doug) Ford because he understands it would be devastating to the Ontario economy,” Kenney said.

The company says the underwater segment is in good condition has never leaked. Environmental groups contend it’s vulnerable to a rupture that would devastate portions of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

Enbridge reached an agreement with then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, in 2018 to replace the underwater segment with a new pipe that would be housed in a tunnel to be drilled through bedrock beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The company is seeking state and federal permits for the project, which is not affected by Whitmer’s shutdown order regarding the existing pipeline.

“Line 5 is an essential source of energy for not only Michigan but for the entire region including Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and Quebec. Any disruption would have devastating consequences,” Enbridge said in its statement.

— With files from the Associated Press

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