STRAITS OF MACKINAC, Mich. (WJMN) — Exactly 180 days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told Enbridge it would have to shut down Line 5, a pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, the Canada-based energy company has no plans of doing so.
“Line 5 is operating safely, reliably and is in compliance with the law,” Enbridge said in a statement as the Wednesday deadline passed. “The State of Michigan has never presented any concrete evidence to suggest otherwise. The U.S. agency in charge of pipeline safety, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), has confirmed on multiple occasions that the pipelines are fit for service.”
It added that the dispute over whether the pipeline can keep running is still playing out in federal court. Right now, a federal court is deciding whether the case should be handled by a state court. Both sides have also been told to work with a mediator to try to work out it without judicial action. Enbridge said the next mediation session is scheduled for next week.
“…Enbridge will vigorously defend its right to continue to operate the pipeline,” the company’s statement continued.
Whitmer has cited environmental concerns in her opposition to the pipeline. Michigan believes that Line 5 is a violation of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act because an oil spill is possible.
A University of Michigan study found that “under the right weather conditions, a spill in the Straits could affect a significant amount of shoreline and open water area in either Lake Michigan or Lake Huron in a very short time.”
In the middle of the debate, there are people who say their lives depend on the health of the surrounding lakes — an Upper Peninsula tribe among them.
“Bay Mills Indian Community believes that this pipeline is dangerous, it’s obsolete, and it’s a piece of fossil fuel infrastructure that jeopardizes not only our natural resources but also our tribal treaty rights, our tribal sovereignty as well the health and safety of our tribal citizens,” Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle said.
The 1836 Treaty of Washington guaranteed the Bay Mills Indian Community the right to fish, hunt, and gather within the territory. Gravelle argued that if Line 5 were to damage the waters and land named in that treaty, it would directly affect the community.
“Not only are our treaty-protected resources at risk, but it’s also tied to the interconnectedness that we as tribal nations have with the land, with the water,” Gravelle said. “More than half of the Bay Mills Indian Community relies on the fishery for some part of their annual income and that is not only jeopardizing that economy, but it’s also jeopardizing our tribute community to be able to put food on the table and provide for their families.”
Whitmer says the state will go through the courts to resolve the matter. In the meantime, she has warned that the state may begin to seize Enbridge’s profits if it won’t shut down the line.