If you've followed Cherry Republic for long, you know that we are big opponents of the Line 5 oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Things are reaching a critical point at our state government over this issue, and now is the time that our voices need to be heard. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel made strong campaign pledges to shut down Line 5 due to the risk of a catastrophic oil spill, and they are now attempting to follow through on those commitments with AG Nessel recently filing a lawsuit describing Line 5 as a public nuisance "likely to cause pollution, impairment and destruction of water and other natural resources." She estimates that costs stemming from a Great Lakes oil spill could range from $1.87 billion to $5.6 billion. Both Gov. Whitmer and AG Nessel are now under pressure from an extremely aggressive and expensive public relations campaign launched by Enbridge Energy (the Line 5 owner), the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, small but vocal segments of the labor union world, and other oil industry players like the American Petroleum Institute. In order to combat their misinformation and tactics, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and its partners are implementing a coordinated counter-message plan aimed at encouraging, supporting -- and pressuring -- Gov. Whitmer and AG Nessel to stand up to Enbridge, fulfill their campaign promises, and take the necessary steps to decommission Line 5 now. I'm sure you are aware that Enbridge has proposed building a 4.5 mile oil tunnel under the Straits to "fix" the dangers that Line 5 poses. Here are the reasons we strongly oppose that plan:
- A tunnel would be a 4.5 mile band-aid on a 645 mile long problem. It does nothing to address the other 640+ miles of the Line 5 pipeline which is also 66 years old, and crosses over 400 Great Lakes tributaries, and travels for 50 miles along US 2, on the north shore of Lake Michigan. Line 5 has spilled over 1 million gallons of oil from over 30 separate incidents -- and those are the spills we know about. A tunnel does nothing to address the risk associated with the rest of the pipeline.
- During the 7-10 years it would likely take to build the tunnel, the existing Line 5 pipeline would remain operating on the lakebed of the Straits, and we can't afford the risks associated with continuing to operate this pipeline in the worst place in the Great Lakes region for an oil spill. Our tourism economy as we know it is at stake. As Attorney General Nessel said, "This is a 66-year-old line at this point. I'm concerned that we'll have a spill of epic proportions that our state will never recover from economically and that does keep me up at night."
- Line 5 is an environmental justice issue. It threatens tribal lands and waters in northern Michigan, all 12 tribes in Michigan oppose the pipeline. The environmental justice impacts are also felt in Detroit, where some of the oil from Line 5 feeds the Marathon refinery -- a major air polluter in the 48217 zip code. As those who attended the Detroit Environmental Justice Tour in late 2017 can tell you, 48217 is the zip code with the worst air pollution in Michigan.
- Climate change is real. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a study saying that we have 12 years to rapidly decarbonize our economy in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is irresponsible -- and a risky bet given investor trends and Enbridge's heavy debt load -- to take 7-10 of those years building new fossil fuel infrastructure, while allowing existing infrastructure that threatens our Great Lakes to continue functioning.