Historic Fine, Actions Against Enbridge Highlight Dire Threat ‘Decrepit' Line 5 Pipeline Poses to People, Wildlife

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The state of Michigan, Great Lakes Tribes, and thousands of citizen advocates' strong responses to Enbridge Energy’s illegal decision to continue to operate Line 5, despite an order to halt operations, underscore the grave risk the aging pipeline poses to the people and wildlife that depend on the Great Lakes. The National Wildlife Federation heralded the Michigan Tribal Nations and citizen activists’ moves to banish and symbolically evict the company along with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order fining Enbridge the equivalent of 100% of its daily profits from Line 5 — more than $1.4 million — for every day that it continues to operate the pipeline. 

“It’s simply unacceptable to risk the world’s largest freshwater lakes and one of the United States’ greatest economic engines, because of a decrepit oil pipeline that’s far exceeded its useful life. It’s an ecological, economic, and public health tragedy just waiting to happen,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Governor Whitmer’s decision to hold Enbridge accountable for refusing to shut down Line 5 is the right decision to safeguard the Great Lakes and protect the health and livelihoods of the millions of people and wildlife who depend upon them.”

“The National Wildlife Federation stands with Michigan’s Tribal communities and citizens as well as Governor Whitmer and the majority of the public who want to see Line 5 shutdown,” said Mike Shriberg, the Great Lakes regional executive director at the National Wildlife Federation. “Enbridge is now operating illegally, adding to their long legacy of corporate irresponsibility. They had already lost their social license to operate in the Great Lakes — now they have also lost their legal right. It’s time for Line 5 to be shut down.”

The National Wildlife Federation was the first organization to recognize the threat that Line 5 poses via the landmark 2012 “Sunken Hazard” report. Since then, the National Wildlife Federation has partnered with numerous allies and led efforts to shut down Line 5, including commissioning the seminal University of Michigan studies of the risks Line 5 poses, sending divers to inspect the pipelines, commissioning the definitive reports on alternatives to Line 5 — which critically showed that energy supplies to Michigan would not be affected by shutting down Line 5 — being appointed to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, and running sophisticated and effective public education campaigns.

The more than six-decade-old Line 5 pipeline, operated by Enbridge Energy, carries up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ontario, taking a shortcut through Michigan and along the lake bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The Mackinac Straits section of Line 5, designed to last 50 years, has been plagued by a range of issues, including missing protective coatings to multiple strikes by anchors and other objects. The pipeline lies in what University of Michigan researchers have called “the worst possible place for an oil spill” in the Great Lakes.

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