Montreal - In May 2021, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 because of the risk it poses to the Great Lakes. Her order echoed the demands of Anishinaabe first nations who have been trying to shut down this oil and gas pipeline since 2017 because a leak would destroy their way of life.
Now, 35 organizations (28 from Quebec) including Équiterre, David Suzuki Foundation, Eau Secours, Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures Québec and The Council of Canadians have sent a letter supporting the closure of Line 5 (attached). Their message is clear: this pipeline is too dangerous and those fighting to keep it open do not speak in our name.
"No way to transport oil is completely safe, but Line 5 is clearly the worst option on the table. It would be irresponsible to run the risk of having this obsolete pipeline causing a spill into the Great Lakes when alternative solutions exist in the short term. This situation is yet another reminder of how important it is for Quebec and Canada to quickly move away from their dependence on hydrocarbons by focusing on energy sobriety, renewable energy and electrification.” says Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, climate policy analyst at Équiterre
Line 5 lies on the bed of the Mackinac Straits joining Lakes Huron and Michigan. The 69-year-old pipe has been hit by boat anchors 3 times already and has spilled at least 1.1 million gallons of oil over the last 50 years. A leak at the Mackinac Straits would contaminate the Great Lakes which represent 20% of the planet’s surface drinking water. The pipeline enters Canada in Sarnia, where a major part of the oil it transports is transferred to Enbridge's Line 9 which runs east through to Montreal.
“This pipe is patchy, decayed, badly located and out of order. With more than 10 million Canadians and Americans drinking water from the Great Lakes, the use of this pipeline must end as soon as possible. The few years of life of a pipeline in no way justify the irreversible and permanent damage that would be caused by an oil or gas leak in our drinking water resource!” says Rebecca Pétrin, executive director of Eau Secours.
In defiance of the orders of the State of Michigan and the demands of the Mashkiiziibii People, otherwise known as the Bad River Chippewa communities of Lake Superior, Enbridge has kept Line 5 operating with the vocal support of Canadian governments at all levels. They argue that its economic importance outweighs the risks and that the pipeline is safe despite its age and history of leaks. Enbridge has pledged to reroute and encase the aging pipe in a tunnel but opponents say it’s too little, too late. The risk of rupture is immediate and the effects would be catastrophic. Following the public hearings that ended today, the Department of Natural Resources of Wisconsin will soon make a decision about the route proposed by Enbridge for the new tunnel.
The letter, with a growing list of signatories, was read February 2nd at the public hearings on the proposed new rerouting of Line 5, which ended today. It supports the Indigenous communities who oppose this routing because it threatens their livelihood and territories and because they want to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem.
It supports the Government of Michigan which fears the pipeline could rupture any day. And it asks the Governments of Canada and of Quebec to put health and the environment over fossil fuels and to find new solutions for Canada’s and Quebec’s energy needs.
The signatories want their elected leaders to close Line 5 and to see this closure as an opportunity to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change. They point out that the pandemic proves that we can enact huge changes in a short space of time.
Wars - Ukraine, Iraq or Yemen -, spills, contamination, disasters, including the climate emergency, oil has long been a source of conflict and devastation, reminds Philippe Duhamel, spokesperson for the Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbons Québec. Turning off the tap on pipelines for good, starting with the oldest, the most dangerous, which threaten our water as well as our lives, must be done as soon as possible, he says. That's why we say today to all those who still seek to defend pipelines 5 and 9b: you do not speak on our behalf.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, Équiterre, Analyst, Climate Policy and Ecological Transition