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The Fight against Enbridge’s Line 5 and the Future of Climate Justice in Michigan Part I

December 5, 2018

A little over a week ago, MLive ran a story stating that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was requesting that “lawmakers earmark $4.5 million for “radar current mapping, as well as planning, oversight and legal services related to the proposed Mackinac Straits utility tunnel project.” 

The same MLive article also stated:

The outgoing governor called it a “common-sense solution” to safeguard the Straits from an oil spill while maintaining the pipeline connection.

The notion that this is a common-sense solution is ridiculous and it is in clear contrast to the recent reports from the global climate scientific community, which stated:

We have just 12 years to make massive and unprecedented changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels, the United Nation’s climate science body said in a monumental new report released Sunday.

“There is no documented historic precedent” for the action needed at this moment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote in its 700-page report on the impacts of global warming of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, building new oil pipelines, even if the Line 5 proposal would just be just be a re-routing of the current pipeline is not sustainable if we are to take serious the warning from the scientific community that we have a 12-year window to drastically alter our consumption of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, no where in the MLive article is there even a discussion of information about climate change and the recent IPCC report.

Not that this is what you would expect from MLive when it comes to challenging corporate power. Just after the Enbridge Kalamazoo River disaster in 2010, MLive did an interview with the CEO of Enbridge that was nothing more than an opportunity for the  company to promote it’s own propaganda. We reported on that interview and provide a deconstruction, which you can read here. 

What is the track record of Enbridge?

According to a report from Tar Sands Watch:

Between 1999 and 2008, across all of Enbridge’s operations there were 610 spills that released close to 132,000 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment. This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker the Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988.

Since then the company has continued to have oil disasters, like the Kalamazoo River disaster in 2010 and additional accidents since then.

However, if you listed to commercial radio stations throughout Michigan, you will likely here Enbridge commercials telling us all how safe their pipelines are. The company has gone to great lengths to convince the public of how wonderful and responsible Enbridge is. If you spend anytime on their Line 5 website, you can see how sophisticated the propaganda is. 

Over the years Enbridge has also used numerous lawsuits against citizens and communities of people to gain access to land to run their pipelines through. They have used eminent domain as a way to force people from their land and lawsuits against numerous communities, particularly indigenous communities in Canada and the US.

In addition, we know that Enbridge, like all oil related companies, spends a great deal of money on lobbying and channeling money to support candidates. In May, there was a pretty good article that explored some of this Dark Money, which is limited, since Michigan is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to government transparency. 

The incoming Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has said that she plans to shut down Line 5. In fact, Nessel said it was her top priority while campaigning.  It would be great if that were the case, but we also know how long it could take, considering how Enbridge will fight the closing of Line 5 in the courts, and that could take years. We also know that often candidates say things during an election that they don’t do when in office. The point being, we should not put our hopes in the Michigan government being the ones to shut down Line 5.

In Part II, we will look at what actions are being taken to resist Line 5 in Michigan.

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