MACKINAC ISLAND – An umbrella organization representing most of the state’s top environmental organizations in efforts to shut down Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 oil pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac put the choice facing Governor Gretchen Whitmer, seen as an ally of the environmental movement, in stark terms Friday.
Whitmer is in talks with Enbridge about the best way to close Line 5 as soon as possible. That could include a plan similar to what Governor Rick Snyder negotiated late last year with Enbridge that would place Line 5 in a tunnel beneath the straits and in far less danger of a catastrophic spill into the water.
David Holtz, spokesperson for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, said the best course for Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nesseland other state officials to take is to immediately begin the process of decommissioning Line 5. Action to shutter the line presumably would involve filing a court motion that Enbridge is in violation of the 1953 easement that granted a predecessor company access to the straits bottomlands for the pipeline and thus the easement should be terminated.
“As she engages in talks with Enbridge, Governor Whitmer should consider whether she wants to be the Line 5 oil tunnel governor,” Holtz said in a statement. “Or does she want to be the governor who will be remembered for standing up to Enbridge and ensuring future generations will have a clean Great Lakes and a healthy climate?”
Holtz said if Enbridge wants an oil tunnel, it should apply for one under what he described as the “legally required process and protections of the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and public trust law but Enbridge must first shut down their dangerous pipeline. Then talk.”
Even a tunnel remains problematic, Holtz said, reiterating the organization’s concerns that the rest of Line 5 still poses risk to the Great Lakes because it crosses hundreds of waterways in the state.
Further, as environmental groups have long argued, Enbridge is a Canadian fossil fuel corporation, he said.
“That’s not the kind of climate legacy Governor Gretchen Whitmer will want future generations to ponder,” Holtz said
Friday, speaking to reporters on Mackinac Island as the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference concluded, Whitmer said she will meet again with Enbridge next week.
The governor reiterated what she said Thursday, that the five-year construction timetable Enbridge has cited for a tunnel is too long.
“I think we’ve got a duty to get it out quicker than that and I think that the attorney general feels the same way,” she said.
Nessel has said unless Whitmer and Enbridge reach a pact to decommission Line 5 by the end of June, she will file legal action to shut the line down.
Whitmer has said several times she is concerned about prolonged litigation and Line 5 remaining in place indefinitely. She said so again Friday.
The governor also said she will be launching an Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force “very soon.” One of the main arguments Line 5 defenders have used is it transports propane to the UP for heating. Whitmer said the task force will assure the state has an energy plan for the UP regardless of what happens on Line 5.
“That’s a goal that I have is to bring down the cost of energy for Yoopers,” she said.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.