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Enbridge says they won’t comply with Governor’s orders, runs new radio ads attacking Whitmer for not caring about working families

January 21, 2021

For more than a week, the powerful Enbridge Corporation has stated publicly that they will not comply with Gov. Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5, since the announcement from the State of Michigan that the oil giant cannot use the public easement.

On January 12th, Vern Yu, executive vice president and president, liquids pipelines, of Enbridge, sent a 7 page letter to Gov. Whitmer, outlining why the fossil fuel corporation will not comply with the government’s order.

Here is part of what that letter contained:

We have carefully reviewed the Notice of Revocation and Termination of 1953 Easement (“Notice”) that we received on November 13 from Mark Totten, Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor. Our review shows that the State lacks the authority to terminate or revoke the 1953 Easement. Enbridge’s court filings since November 13 make clear why “termination” or “revocation” of the Easement is contrary to federal law. Moreover, as discussed in detail below, the Notice fails to specify an existing violation of Easement terms that would justify termination. 

For these reasons, we intend to operate the Dual Lines until the replacement pipeline under the Straits within the Great Lakes Tunnel is placed into service, as per our existing Agreement with the State of Michigan and consistent with PHMSA federal regulatory requirements. Enbridge already has requested that the United States District Court allow us to move to dismiss the civil suit the State filed in an attempt to enforce the November 13 Notice. In responding to the Notice’s claims here, Enbridge preserves all of its legal arguments, including that the federal Pipeline Safety Act preempts Michigan’s attempt to enforce its own safety standards on the Dual Lines or to take any action to close the Dual Lines. 

The Enbridge letter, ends with these words of defiance:

For all of the reasons discussed, the November 13 Notice is not a valid exercise of the State’s authority under the Easement. Accordingly, the Easement will not terminate or be deemed “revoked” at the end of the 180-day period, as the Notice seeks. Our dual pipelines in the Straits are safe, fit for service and in full compliance with the federal safety standards that govern them. 

We trust you will respond positively to our offer to participate in good-faith discussions to resolve any differences. In the meantime, the Dual Pipelines will continue to operate safely until they are replaced on completion of the Tunnel Project, as per the 2018 Agreements. Enbridge will vigorously defend its rights under the Easement in pending court actions, and fully expects that its legal positions will prevail.

Shortly after it became public that Enbridge would not comply with the State’s order, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters released their own statement, which read in part:

Enbridge’s irresponsible refusal to comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision is a slap in the face to Michigan families who care about our Great Lakes and clean drinking water more than Big Oil profits.

The refusal by Enbridge to comply with the Governor’s orders demonstrates their arrogance, but more importantly it demonstrates the power this corporation has. Would a small business be able to get away with failure to comply with state orders? Would any citizen group or individual? Enbridge’s defiance on this matter also demonstrates that they have very deep pockets to fight any efforts to halt their profit-making ability, through litigation. 

Propaganda on the airwaves

For years, Enbridge has been running paid advertising, which for corporations can be written off as a business expense in their tax filings. Enbrdige runs both TV and radio ads throughout the Michigan market, specifically related to Line 5 and their proposed tunnel.

Now, Enbridge is running new ads that are not only attacking Gov. Whitmer for attempting to shut down Line 5, the ad is actually saying that the State of Michigan doesn’t care about working families. 

This new radio ad, which I have heard in the Grand Rapids market, is very misleading and disingenuous. How can Enbridge claim that it cares about working families? Working families are always the hardest hit from the environment disasters that Enbridge has perpetrated all across the US, as can be seen in the 10 year graphic on the right, from the National Wildlife Federation.

In addition, the claim that Enbridge cares about working families is false, because Climate Change disproportionately impacts the poor and working class families around the globe and in Michigan.

However, we cannot rely on the courts or the State of Michigan to shut down Line 5 and to dismantle any and all Enbridge pipelines. We need to support direct action campaigns, like we saw at Standing Rock and like the one that is happening right now against Line 3 in Minnesota. The future of the Great Lakes should not be left up to the judicial process or the greed of corporations like Enbridge. Shut Down Line 5 Now!

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