The federal government should prepare for the closure of Line 5 by developing contingency plans and alternative sourcing options say Greens
OTTAWA — The Green Party of Canada supports the decision by Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan to revoke Enbridge’s permit to operate a dual pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac, because it poses “unreasonable risk” to the Great Lakes. The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline transports crude bitumen from Alberta and Saskatchewan through Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario.
“We respect Governor Whitmer’s decision to close the Line 5 pipeline,” said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. “We know that this decision was not taken lightly; on the contrary, Michigan scientists, conservationists and Indigenous nations have long warned that Enbridge Line 5 is a disaster waiting to happen.
“Michigan residents remember 2010, when Enbridge Line 6B burst and spilled more than three million litres of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River – one of the largest and most expensive inland oil spills in U.S. history. It is understandable that the people of Michigan are extremely sensitive to the dangerous consequences of a potential spill from Line 5, and chose to elect a Governor who explicitly campaigned on the promise to shut down the line.”
Potential risks posed to the physical structure of the 68-year old pipeline include structural damage – the pipeline is already bent in sections; corrosion; and damage from a ship’s anchor strike that could cause oil to leak. Any leakage would severely impact the Great Lakes area, including Ontario’s Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. The cost for cleanup is estimated at more than US$1 billion, and the number of jobs at risk if Line 5 ruptures far outweigh the jobs currently supported by the pipeline.
“We heard last week that the Anishinabek Nation supports Governor Whitmer’s decision. The government must respect Indigenous treaty rights in any decision regarding the future of Line 5. It would be a mistake for the government to invoke the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty and to accord preference to that treaty over the treaties that were signed many years ago with the Indigenous Peoples.
“We are very sensitive to the fact that a significant amount of the crude oil that ends up in Canadian refineries comes through Line 5 and that many jobs are linked to this pipeline,” said Ms. Paul. “The question is: are there reasonable alternatives to Line 5 that can protect jobs and ensure supply? It seems that there are. While we still need an independent analysis that will outline the impact of the closure of Line 5 on Canadian refineries, it does appear that there is available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region via the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors even if Line 5 ceases to operate.
“We have known for years that Governor Whitmer intended to cancel the easement for Line 5. Instead of hoping that Governor Whitmer would reverse a key campaign promise, or that President Biden’s administration would intervene, Canada should have already had its contingency plans in place. The government should have conducted its own energy security analysis, identified alternative sourcing options, and prepared its own energy security plan. Having such a large percentage of Canada’s crude oil traveling through an aging system that risks being shut down by a governor in another country was never going to be sustainable.
- WHAT SHOULD CANADA BE DOING?
“As the shutdown deadline approaches, now is not the time to stoke fear amongst people in Canada, but rather to reassure them. Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. has already said that a potential shutdown, while serious, is not a threat to our energy security. We also know that Enbridge, Imperial and Suncor are making contingency plans and that the Pearson Airport Authority has diversified its sources for fuel.
“This is not the first pipeline project to be shut down between the U.S. and Canada and it won’t be the last. Canada has a real opportunity to shift its subsidy and investment strategy into clean energy technology and to create jobs. We also know that the green sector creates far more jobs for every dollar invested than the fossil fuel sector. In fact, an independent 2017 study found decommissioning and removing Line 5 would create 2,188 jobs. Clean energy is where the future global economy is headed and we owe it to Canada’s workers to ensure we are at the forefront of that transition.”
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