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Enbridge pushes back on Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5, fights pipeline opposition on multiple fronts

December 7, 2020

Nearly a month ago we all heard the good news when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer finally upheld her election campaign promise to shut down the Enbridge Line 5, which not only threatens the future of the Great Lakes, it perpetuates climate catastrophe. 

However, we all knew that Enbridge would not just go away without a fight. We should have learned from the Enbridge Kalamazoo River disaster, that the Canadian-based corporation would use any and all means to not only avoid any responsibility for the massive oil spill, they would run an aggressive PR campaign to con the public and political leaders. 

Just days ago, the Enbridge Corporation used their considerable legal influence to ask a Michigan Federal Judge to dismiss Gov. Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5. An Enbridge spokesperson was quoted in an MLive article stating, Enbridge is advancing its case in federal court and continues to vigorously defend the validity of the Line 5 easement in the Straits of Mackinac and its right to operate the pipeline.” 

The original Media Release from Enbridge provides us with a better understanding of their legal argument and their PR spin, saying: 

A federal agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), is Enbridge’s safety regulator, not the State of Michigan. In fact, only three months ago the safety of the Dual Pipelines was reviewed by our regulator and the Pipelines were found to be fit for service.  The State’s attempt to assume the role of safety regulator through its notice purporting to “terminate and revoke” the easement is improper and unlawful.

This is the latest attempt by the State of Michigan to interfere with the operation of this critical infrastructure by assuming authority it does not possess. By contrast, Enbridge continues to live up to all its obligations under its agreements with the State of Michigan. Notably, Enbridge has undertaken a variety of Line 5 projects requested by the State at substantial expense, including installing a new Line 5 crossing under the St. Clair River earlier this year and diligently pursuing permitting for the Great Lakes tunnel project at no cost to taxpayers. 

Now, the MLive article cited above does clarify that Enbridge has until May 2021 to allow Line 5 to continue to pump oil and natural gas through one of their main North American pipelines. In addition, Enbridge is moving forward with their plans to construct a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac, which they argue would provide even more safe mechanism to transport oil. 

There are groups like Oil & Water Don’t Mix, which are fighting Enbridge’s misinformation campaign about the current Line 5 and the proposed tunnel. There have also been indigenous groups resisting those same plans. 

Enbridge is also fighting indigenous and climate justice activists in Minnesota, where part of the company’s Line 3 runs. Minnesota’s 350.org and Honor the Earth are two major groups fighting Line 3, which have been engaged in a serious battle since 2018, when to Minnesota Governor approved a permit for Line 3. 

In a recent article posted on the Intercept, Enbridge and the State of Minnesota have threatened activists who oppose Line 3, especially if the opposition leads to outright resistance. The Intercept article states that the same kinds of state and private repression/counterinsurgency that was used during the Indigenous-led fight against the pipeline going through Standing Rock, might well be used in Minnesota.

Asked how she would define counterinsurgency, LaDuke said bluntly, “We’ve got drones over our property.” She continued, “It starts with surveillance, it expands to the use of informants, entrapment, falsifying situations, and getting people charged with things they should not be charged with. It involves bullying and intimidating tribal members and nontribal members.” And she said much of that has already begun in northern Minnesota.

The bad news is that the Enbridge Corporation will use their financial and political power to try to keep Line 3 an Line 5 going, often with repressive tactics. The good  news is that the Enbridge Corporation is not only fighting on multiple fronts, they are fighting Indigenous-led movements that will make it as difficult as possible for the Canadian-based multinational corporation to continue to profit from destroying ecosystems an perpetuating the climate catastrophe.

Watch this powerful new documentary on Indigenous-led resistance to Enbridge pipelines.

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