Every day, nearly 23 million gallons of oil flow through two aging pipelines in the heart of the Great Lakes known as Line 5. Not only does Line 5 put the Great Lakes at enormous risk from an oil spill, the oil carried by this pipeline once refined and burned creates a huge carbon spill into the atmosphere.
Enbridge, a Canadian-based oil transport giant that owns and operates Line 5, is now attempting to replace the pipeline with an oil tunnel that would carry millions of gallons of climate-harming fossil fuels every day through our state for up to 99 more years. There is no doubt that extending the life of this pipeline would exacerbate climate change and the impacts we are already experiencing in Michigan.
The Michigan Climate Action Network is working hard to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline and stop the proposed oil tunnel. You, too, can contribute by encouraging President Biden to exercise his authority to shut down Line 5 today.
The Latest in Line 5 Resources
- The Strait Story Webinar: Enbridge Line 5 and Its Trespass on State Waters and Indigenous Lands
- The Facts About Line 5: How We Can Protect the Great Lakes From an Oil Spill
- New Series: How to Know About Line 5
Stopping the Tunnel
To build a tunnel, first Enbridge needs approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers and Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). MiCAN has teamed up with attorneys at the Environmental Law & Policy Center to intervene in this case and make sure the impacts this new oil infrastructure would have on the climate are considered.
- In April 2021, we won an important victory when the MPSC ruled to include climate change in Enbridge's Line 5 permit hearing. This was a HUGE win, and the first time a state agency is including climate in a review under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, and the Commissioners overturned the ruling of the Administrative Law Judge to exclude evidence of climate change. This came after our attorneys argued our case to the Commissioners this spring, and we also submitted as public comment a letter signed by 120 businesses and more than 2,000 people urging the MPSC to include climate change evidence in their review of the proposed Line 5 tunnel.
- In June 2021, the Acting Army assistant secretary announced their decision to require the US Army Corp to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Enbridge's proposed tunnel around Line 5. This step would slow down Enbridge's plans and result in significant new information about the dangerous climate effects of this proposed project.
- In September 2021, four expert witnesses weighed in with the Michigan Public Service Commission and presented their evidence about whether Enbridge should be allowed to build an oil tunnel beneath the Great Lakes. They used climate data to study the project’s environmental impact, a first under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. Their findings were clear and undeniable: allowing this oil tunnel to be built will exacerbate the climate crisis, result in an estimated 27 million metric tons of CO2 emitted every year, and will cost tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars in net climate impacts as a result of the added emissions.
In the fall of 2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened to public comment its scope of review for the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement that was deemed necessary to administer before issuing a permit for the proposed tunnel project. Together with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, MiCAN submitted our stance that the purpose and need is not at all as narrow as supplying oil through a tunnel versus relying on the existing pipelines, but rather calls into question the validity of investing further into fossil fuel infrastructure that undermines both our state and federal goals for carbon neutrality.
- Unfortunately, the Corps disagreed, issuing a ‘memorandum for record’ on June 28, 2023 that limited the scope of its environmental impact review to just the four-mile segment of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, and declined to consider the effects of continued long-term use of fossil fuels, climate impacts, or engineering concerns that have been identified by experts.
- A draft EIS is not expected to come until 2025, but in the meantime, the heartening news is that federal guidance for agencies regarding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) continues to stress to include climate change impacts and equity.
- At the beginning of 2023, a couple new candidates were appointed to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA), whom members of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign called on to finally provide the necessary independent oversight of Line 5 operations. This came at a time when Enbridge was actively adding a sleeve around a section of the pipeline that has spilled at least four times already (despite downplaying it as “routine maintenance”), and was also right on the heels of engineers’ warning of two sources of flammable gas that, in the proposed tunnel's high-pressure and confined environment, would be able to set off an explosion under the Straits.
- On June 16th, a commendable step was taken when a federal court ordered that Enbridge decommission, within three years, its segment of Line 5 that is trespassing on the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. While an important recognition to move the needle toward protecting our people and water over corporate interest, the three-year grace period leaves the Bad River vulnerable to catastrophe in the short-term. And, lest we forget Enbridge is still trespassing in Michigan, long after Gov. Whitmer ordered the shut down of Line 5 in November 2020.
Shutting Down Line 5
Michigan can be the first state to shut down an oil pipeline. While pipelines are federally regulated, Line 5 is unique because it crosses the Great Lakes bottomlands, so Enbridge holds an easement from the State of Michigan for the use of the Great Lakes public trust resource. Enbridge has violated this easement multiple times and Michigan's Governor, Attorney General, and legislature have a legal pathway to shut down Line 5.
In November 2020, Gov. Whitmer ordered the shut down of Line 5 by May 2021, but Enbridge continues to illegally operate this pipeline and is fighting to block her action.
President Biden can shut down Line 5 by revoking the Presidential permit for Line 5. Click here to use your voice and send a message directly to the White House.
Get more involved with the campaign to Shut Down the flow of oil in Line 5 with our partners at the Oil & Water Don't Mix Campaign.