Governor Gretchen Whitmer notified Enbridge that the1953 easement allowing it to operate dual Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac is being revoked and terminated. The notice requires Enbridge to cease operations of Line 5, but allows Line 5 to remain operational until May 12, 2021. The Governor and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had Attorney General Nessel file a lawsuit in support of this matter.
Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel noted the state is revoking the Line 5 easement for violation of the public trust doctrine, believing Line 5 poses an unreasonable risk to the Great Lakes, and the termination is also "based on persistent and incurable violations of the easement's terms and conditions."
In speaking with the administration, the MPGA confirmed that this legal challenge to revoke the current Line 5 easement and the application for the Tunnel to house the new Line 5, are separate actions. They are not comingled. In speaking with MPGA legal counsel for the Tunnel application, that is consistent with the MPGA message and legal stance for the Tunnel. The existing line should not complicate nor be considered part of the application for the Tunnel.
While the Enbridge legal team was understandably occupied late last week when this latest lawsuit was filed, the MPGA hopes to meet with the Enbridge team soon. In the meantime, Enbridge has provided the following information:
Enbridge remains confident that Line 5 continues to operate safely and that there is no credible basis for terminating the 1953 Easement allowing the Dual Line 5 Pipelines to cross the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge is reviewing the lawsuit. “This notice and the report from Michigan Department of Natural Resources are a distraction from the fundamental facts,” said Vern Yu, Executive Vice President and President, Liquids Pipelines. “Line 5 remains safe, as envisioned by the 1953 Easement, and as recently validated by our federal safety regulator.
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,” Yu continued.
In developing its report, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) chose to conduct its assessment of Easement compliance in a non-public manner. The DNR rejected Enbridge’s offer to allow technical experts to discuss any questions or clarifications related to its review. This failure to engage reflects a lack of understanding or worse, a continued failure to meet the State’s commitments under the 2018 Second Agreement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge, which contemplates periodic meetings on pipeline issues to avoid just this kind of situation.
With the latest actions by the Governor and Attorney General based on historical Line 5 compliance, Enbridge finally will have an opportunity to review the DNR’s analysis and provide a thorough response through the legal process.
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.
Our focus remains on protecting the Great Lakes, the environment and all the people who use these waters while delivering energy that people rely on daily. Enbridge's Line 5 has served Michiganders safely without incident at the Straits crossing for more than 65 years, over nine different State Administrations. We remain committed to advancing The Great Lakes Tunnel that will contain a new section of pipeline to replace the Dual Pipelines. Enbridge is currently seeking permit approval for the tunnel project and replacement pipeline which, upon completion, will make a safe Straits crossing even safer.