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What to Know About the Line 5 Shutdown

On Friday, Nov. 13, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced to Enbridge energy delivery company that they have until May 2021 to shut down Line 5, a major oil pipeline running through the state of Michigan and into Canada that has been of concern to many due to its running under the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac. The State of Michigan revoked the 1953 easement which allowed the existence of the pipeline, arguing that the easement should never have been granted in the first place. Specifically, the state argued that the pipeline violated the public trust doctrine, which requires that Michigan waterways be navigable for public use including fishing and boating. It was argued that the pipeline is vulnerable to damage from boat anchors and other dangers as the pipeline sits exposed under the straits, leaving room for a potential oil spill.

Enbridge has maintained their claim that the pipeline does not present a real danger to its surroundings, and, on Tuesday, Nov. 24, filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Michigan. Enbridge argues that the state is overstepping its bounds, noting that it is the federal government, not the state, that conducts oversight of the pipeline. In addition to its own case, Enbridge hopes to move Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s lawsuit against the company from state to federal court.

While the pipeline is opposed by environmental activists, tourist businesses, and native tribes of the region, the company and Line 5 supporters maintain that the pipeline is of too great of economic importance to its surrounding areas to be shut down, and that it does not present an environmental threat. The issue is an international one, with Ontario minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford opposing the shutdown.

As of now, it is unclear whether or not the state of Michigan has the authority to shut down the pipeline, with both groups agreeing that a lengthy legal battle is almost certain.

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