Enbridge’s Line 5 was constructed in 1953, and has operated under a Presidential Permit for 68 years. But between 2010-2015, investigations by the MI Dept. of Natural Resources and others uncovered damage in the form of anchor strikes, missing supports, and lost protective coating that have increased concerns about corrosion and potential leaks on underwater segments of the twinned pipeline in the fragile Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Enbridge reached a deal in 2018 with former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to build a new tunnel to house Line 5 where it runs underwater through the Straits of Mackinac, and is still seeking federal and state permits for the tunnel project.
However, the evidence of growing potential for leaks and the devastation a spill could cause led Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November 2020 to revoke the original 1953 easement, and order Enbridge to cease operations of Line 5 by May 2021. Enbridge filed suit in federal court to overturn Whitmer’s revocation, arguing only the federal PHMSA agency holds that authority, and subsequently in January 2021 announced that it plans to defy Gov. Whitmer’s order and continue operation of Line 5. This brazen statement from Enbridge came in the wake of President Biden’s revocation of the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and has been followed up with defiant statements out of Canadia from the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., Natural Resources Minister, and others, pushing that continued operation of Line 5 is “nonnegotiable.”
On May 12, Enbridge defied Gov. Whitmer’s order vacating the pipeline easement and continued operation of the pipeline. Whitmer has threatened to disgorging any profits from Enbridge that the company receives while operating in violation of the law. Water Protectors and many Tribal Nations gathered in Mackinaw in May 12-13 for an “Evict Enbridge” event, while the Bay Mills Indian Community Executive Council passes resolution that banishes Enbridge’s Line 5 dual pipelines from the BMIC reservation and the lands and waters of their ceded territory — including the Straits of Mackinac. Mediation talks between the state of Michigan and Enbridge were continuing as of May 20, since the company’s illegal operation of the pipeline began on May 12.
WATCH: Simulation of oil spill from Line 5 underwater pipeline into Straits of Mackinac.
Recent Media Coverage
- (May 23, 2021): Canadian Press: Talks between Enbridge, Michigan to continue over Line 5 standoff, mediator says
- (May 14, 2021): Washington Post: Why I’m trying to shut down an underwater oil pipeline that threatens the Great Lakes (op-ed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer)
- (May 13, 2021): Michigan Advance: Tribes, activists from across U.S. gather up north in solidarity of Line 5 fight
- (March 7, 2021): Michigan Advance: Tribes worry Line 5 tunnel construction could bring sex trafficking, violence to Native communities
- (May 22, 2020): Wisconsin State Journal: Environmental advocates, landowners seek to stop Enbridge taking land for northern Wisconsin pipeline
- (January 19, 2019): Mlive.com: Enbridge Line 5 has spilled at least 1.1M gallons in past 50 years
- Owner: Enbridge, constructed in 1953
- Capacity: 540,000 barrels per day (bpd) of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are refined into propane.
- Length: 645 miles, Superior, WI > Sarnia, Ontario (MAP)
- Diameter: 20-inches
- Cost: <~$1 billion [source]
- Status: Proposed underwater tunnel project for Straits of Mackinac
- Start Year: 2022
- Bank lenders: Enbridge has told Michigan regulators it will be 100% responsible for project costs.
- May 2020: Enbridge asks Wisconsin Public Service Commission for power of eminent domain to take private land in Ashland and Iron counties in Wisconsin. Landowners file suit against eminent domain, represented by Midwest Environmental Advocates and supported by Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, the League of Women Voters, the Superior Rivers Watershed Association and 350 Madison Climate Action Team. [source]
- The new negotiations with landowners come after a successful lawsuit by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa forced Enbridge to remove a 12-mile segment Line 5 pipeline from the Bad River Reservation, and bypass the reservation with about 41 miles of new pipe on different land.
- Pipeline constructed in 1953; current underwater “tunnel” project does not require further landowner agreements or easements.
Indigenous Free, Prior & Informed Consent; Consultation & Environmental Justice:
- No free, prior & informed consent. Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a specific right that pertains to Indigenous peoples and is recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It allows them to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories. Once they have given their consent, they can withdraw it at any stage. Furthermore, FPIC enables them to negotiate the conditions under which the project will be designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated. This is also embedded within the universal right to self-determination. [source]
- May 2021: Bay Mills Indian Community Executive Council passes resolution that banishes Enbridge’s Line 5 dual pipelines from the BMIC reservation and the lands and waters of their ceded territory — including the Straits of Mackinac. [source]
- April 2021: Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians seeks to designate the Straits of Mackinac as a Traditional Cultural Property following the discovery last fall of a potential archaeological site. [source]
- April 2021: Bay Mills Indian Community and Earthjustice attorneys challenge Line 5 tunnel project permit issued to Enbridge by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), file request for contested case hearing. [source]
- Resolutions of Tribal Nations Support for Line 5 Shutdown (compiled by Oil & Water Don’t Mix):
- Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party (May 2019)
- Bad River Bank of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians (January 2017)
- Bay Mills Indian Community (March 2015)
- Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA)
- Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (February 2015)
- Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (August 2016)
- Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (March 2016)
- Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (March 2015)
- Michigan Indian Elders Association (April 2017)
- Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (April 2016)
- Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians (a.k.a Gun Lake Tribe) (April 2016)
- National Congress of Indians (June 2016)
- Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians (April 2015)
- Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (May 2019)
- Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe (June 2016)
- Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (February 2015)
- United Tribes of Michigan (October 2016)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public hearing Dec. 7, 2020
- February 2020: Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy approved permits for the company to build a tunnel under the straits, [source]
Impact Litigation / Court Fights
- November 2020: Enbridge sues Michigan & Gov. Whitmer over revocation of Line 5 permit, argues only U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) holds that authority. Federal judge will decide whether the case belongs in federal court or if it should be sent back to state court. [source]
- June 2020: A Michigan Circuit Court Judge orders Enbridge to temporarily halt operations of Line 5 over continuing concerns about a potential spill in the Great Lakes. [source]