Michigan AG and Enbridge at Odds Over Oil Pipeline in Great Lakes

On Thursday, the attorney general of Michigan filed suit to shut down Enbridge’s 66-year-old twin pipelines in the Great Lakes. He said there is an “unacceptable risk” making it dangerous for the state to wait 5 to 10 years for replacements to get built.

Additionally, this past week, Democrat Dana Nessel dismissed the legality of a deal former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge had made allowing the company to continue adding a tunnel below their Line 5. Since the deal was made, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Enbridge have been in talks with Whitmer pushing for the project to be finished in 2 years, while Enbridge arguing they could not finish before 2024.

Nessel says she has “consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes…because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits."

In opposition to their pipelines being shut down, Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy has stated their decommission would be a “serious disruption” to Michigan’s energy market and supply. Line 5 provides 55% of Michigan’s propane needs, as well as 65% for northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, and a large portion of aviation fuel at the Detroit Metro Airport.

Duffy adds that Enbridge “remains open to discussions with the governor,” and “is deeply committed to being part of Michigan’s future. We believe the Straits tunnel is the best way to protect the community and the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.”

The pipes were put into operation in 1953 and, as Enbridge has said, are able to operate “indefinitely,” however opponents worry the construction on the tunnel encasing the Line 5 could prolong a possible unprotected accident or spill in the Straits area. Nessel’s suit addresses the anchor strike possibility and calls on an Ingham County judge to overrule the operation of the pipelines as they violate the public trust doctrine and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act as they have the plausibility of causing pollution and destroying natural resources.

Enbridge has brought to attention the safety actions they have put in place to prevent anchor strikes and has requested continued talks with Governor Whitmer with an independent moderator to assist in facilitating discussion as well as pausing their lawsuit filed against her.