Michigan tries to shut down oil and natural gas pipeline from Canada

The government of Canada has backed the company that operates the pipeline in court.

Updated: January 15, 2023 - 12:50pm

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Michigan is in a standoff with Canada as the state is trying to shut down an aging oil and gas pipeline over environmental concerns. 

The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, which runs from Superior, Wisconsin, through Michigan and two Great Lakes to Sarnia, Canada, was effectively shut down by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), creating an ongoing legal battle, the BBC reported Saturday. 

Whitmer said Line 5 posed an "unreasonable risk" to the Great Lakes and ordered the company to cease operations. Under her administration, permits to allow Enbridge to create a tunnel to safely enclose Line 5 have been pending since 2020. 

Enbridge, which says the pipeline brings in up to $2 million daily, has ignored Whitmer's orders and continued operations. Michigan sued to force Line 5 to shut down, and the case is currently being debated in federal court. 

The government of Canada has backed Enbridge in court, invoking the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty that allows crude oil to flow between the two countries.

Michigan says that transporting oil and natural gas via trucks and railroads may be a better option, but Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said these options were "less safe, less efficient, and higher emitting." 

Enbridge has been operating the pipeline since 1953. The company says it "has never experienced a leak in more than 65 years of operation" and the pipeline supplies "55% of Michigan's statewide propane needs."

If the pipeline were to spill, a risk analysis commissioned by the state of Michigan said it could cost nearly $2 billion and bring species loss to a "point of no return," according to the BBC.