Enbridge has defied Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s May 12 deadline to shut down Line 5, which means the pipeline is now trespassing on state land. The Canadian energy company claims Michigan has no authority to enforce such a deadline, and will only shut down the pipeline if ordered by a federal court or their regulator. Enbridge and the state of Michigan will be arguing in federal court over whether or not the pipeline can keep operating in the straits of Mackinac.
“Indigenous communities in Michigan have long opposed any oil pipeline running through their treaty land ... If oil spills in the Great Lakes, those are their treaty lands, those are their sacred waters.” —Laina Stebbins, Michigan Advance
With Michigan’s Great Lakes providing 20% of the world’s freshwater, many Michiganders are strongly opposed to Line 5. Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes have been especially vocal about shutting down the pipeline, and the potential devastating effects that a rupture would have on the lakes.
Listen: Laina Stebbins on what’s next for Enbridge’s Line 5
Laina Stebbins covers environment, Native issues and criminal justice for Michigan Advance, a progressive nonprofit news organization. She says Enbridge is not recognizing Michigan’s authority over the Great Lakes. ”The company [Enbridge] is now arguing that only their federal regulator … has the power to shut down Line 5.”
Stebbins says despite this, the state might have a better chance in state court. ”I’ve heard from environmental lawyers that Michigan has a better shot at winning this than Enbridge does.”
Michigan Republicans in favor of the pipeline say shutting it down will harm the state’s energy infrastructure, but Stebbins says that is not the case. ”Line 5 only supplies a small portion of what it transports to Michigan … Only a small fraction of that oil that is transported actually comes to us. So, it’s really the propane in the U.P. that is the question.”
Stebbins says Enbridge has also ignored the concerns of Michigan’s Indigenous communities, whose land the pipeline runs through. ”Indigenous communities in Michigan have long opposed any oil pipeline running through their treaty land ... If oil spills in the Great Lakes, those are their treaty lands, those are their sacred waters,” she says.