Gladu, Bradley urging Ottawa to intervene in Line 5 dispute

Enbridge Sarnia (Photo By Melanie Irwin)

Sarnia-Lambton’s MP is calling on the Trudeau government to intervene in the State of Michigan’s attempt to force the closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

Marilyn Gladu said the line that runs between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, is essential to this area and has been safely operating for years.

“We have thousands of jobs that will be at risk if that line is shut down, not to mention that line supplies all of the jet fuel ultimately for Pearson [International] airport as well as Detroit [Metropolitan] airport,” said Gladu. “So there are jobs on both sides of the border impacted as well as home heating in southwestern Ontario, about 30 per cent of people are on that.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on November 13 that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would revoke the 67-year-old easement allowing the pipeline to operate under the Straits of Mackinac. The notice would require Calgary-based Enbridge to close the line in May.

Gladu said the Canadian government has a role to play in the ongoing legal battle between the State and the pipeline company.

“I’ve also had conversations with Seamus O’Regan, who is the minister of natural resources, to ask him to intervene on this issue and to get the prime minister to use his relationship with Joe Biden to intervene in this situation. Plains Midstream, possibly Pembina, the refineries here and all the spinoff jobs will be impacted as well as our farmers. Many of these are using fuel from Line 5 to heat their barns and to keep their animals warm, so this is crucial and we need to keep fighting until we get a satisfactory resolution.”

The MP said she wrote a letter to Governor Whitmer in December, similar to one penned by Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, expressing grave concern about the State’s attempts to shut the line down.

In early January, Mayor Bradley wrote to Justin Trudeau, urging the prime minister to reach out to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and ask that the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty that Biden voted in favour of, be upheld. The mayor’s letter said the treaty, negotiated by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Jimmy Carter and voted for by then Senator Biden, precludes interruption of existing hydrocarbon pipelines.

Enbridge said the State’s easement notice violates federal law and it has no intention of shutting down the line based on unspecified allegations. It said the dual lines running beneath the Straits of Mackinac were reviewed and approved for operation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in June and September of 2020. The company said Line 5 will continue to operate safely while it focuses on plans to construct a 6.4-kilometre tunnel to replace the lines beneath the straits.

The State claims Enbridge has repeatedly violated the terms of the 1953 easement by failing to ensure erosion doesn’t cause lengthy, unsupported spans above the lakebed that could cause buckling and breakage. It also cites incidents last summer and in 2018 where vessel anchors damaged the line.

-With files from Colin Gowdy