Letters of support pile up for Line 5

Feb. 9, 2021

Letters in mail slot

Labor, lawmakers, businesses in U.S. and Canada rally to keep pipeline operating

It’s clear from the letters of support to keep Line 5 operating, and build a tunnel to house it, that many people understand what happens in the Great Lakes State extends well beyond its borders.

Michigan Gov. Gretchan Whitmer’s attempt to revoke the long-standing easement agreement between the State and Enbridge to operate Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits has served as a catalyst to galvanize new and vocal support for the pipeline.

The Governor’s Nov. 13 Notice to revoke the easement has drawn the wrath of public officials and community leaders, as well as from refineries, businesses, manufacturers, and laborers who recognize the importance of Line 5.

In a December letter to Gov. Whitmer, Thomas Conway, international president of the United Steelworkers (USW) expressed “deep concerns” over Gov. Whitmer’s decision to terminate the easement for the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline.

“Our union is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers across the economy, including in refining,” he wrote. “Steelworker members across Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin are directly impacted by your actions on this pipeline, and we urge you to reconsider your decision.”

Conway shared that while the USW “strongly supports” the proposed tunnel to house a replacement section of Line 5 to address safety concerns, the USW believes Gov. Whitmer’s “decision to prematurely shutdown Line 5 prior to the completion of the new tunnel” exacerbates risks and “will create lasting economic damage to the region and to USW members.”

Pipeline is vital to the region, say homeowners and businesses

Line 5 supplies crude oil to PBF Energy’s Toledo Refinery, where the USW represents nearly 400 operation and maintenance employees, as well as to the BP/Husky Toledo refinery, where USW represents nearly 300 workers.

Conway is not alone in his concerns.

State Rep. Jack O’Malley in a recent letter to Gov. Whitmer also expressed concerns related to his district.

“My district, the 101st House District, is blessed with 175 miles of Great Lakes shoreline,” O’Malley wrote.  “I am very much aware of how important water is to all our citizens, and I take this responsibility seriously. The discussion over Line 5 is not new, but the fact remains that accessible, affordable heat must be reliably delivered to the UP.”

O’Malley shared that the absence of Line 5 would cut off the heat to the Upper Peninsula, because Line 5 provides 70 percent of the propane to the Upper Peninsula.

“…Michigan families, already pushed to their breaking point by COV ID-19, should not be in fear that they will soon lose access to affordable heat, too,” shared O’Malley in his letter. O’Malley cautioned, “political priorities should not come at the expense of 300,000 Yooper families you took an oath to serve.”

Neighbors in Canada impacted, too

The primary economic development agency for the Sarnia-Lambton area in Ontario, Canada, also voiced objections, urging Gov. Whitmer to reconsider her actions.

Katherine Walker, chair of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (SLEP) board of directors, stressed the international implications of Gov. Whitmer’s actions.

“This is of multi-state and international importance,” Walker wrote, “such actions would stop the supply of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) critical to the production of propane in Rapid River to heat the homes of Northern Michigan families.”

She also noted concern that if the Governor prevails, the actions “could lead to the shutdown of all four gasoline refineries in Ontario, Canada, as well as numerous refineries in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

Additionally, Walker cited in her letter that the situation “poses grave concerns not just for our 125,000 residents but also all 14 million residents in Ontario. Our mandate includes fostering economic stability, growth and diversification across the Sarnia-Lambton area, to enhance the quality of life and create a vibrant place to live and work. Our efforts benefit the entire region, including the state of Michigan, through cross-border trade and commerce.”

Walker continued, “The result of this action would be significant job loss across all sectors, with families unable to fuel their vehicles to get to work, and the potential devastation of the engineering and manufacturing sectors that are critical to the economy of the bi-national Great Lakes region.”

Walker also acknowledged Enbridge as “a vital partner in driving economic growth across the bi-national Great Lakes region. Its various investments, including Line 5, have provided significant benefits to communities on both sides of the border, not the least of which is a safe and reliable energy supply to fuel transportation, factories, homes and lives.”

A shutdown will create peril for many

In a nod to the imperative role Line 5 plays across North America, Shell and Marathon also voiced consternation about the proposed easement revocation.

Shell’s affiliate, Shell Canada Products, operates the Sarnia Manufacturing Centre (SMC) in Ontario.

In his letter to Gov. Whitmer, Kevin Nichols, president and chief executive officer of Shell Midstream Partners GP LLC, shared, “Line 5 closure would have severe consequences for the SMC Refinery and Chemical Plant, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, as well as the entire Great Lakes region.  The region is dependent, to a great extent, on the crude oil and natural gas liquid supplies that flow through the pipeline.”

Along with the propane from Line 5 that meets more than 50 percent of the demand across Michigan, the dual pipelines transport light crude oil essential to transportation fuels. The natural gas liquids from Line 5 also help manufacture more than 6,000 everyday products.

“Line 5 is critical to Michigan residents and businesses, but also across North America,” said Mike Moeller Great Lakes regional operations director.

“From medicines to vehicles to eyewear to clothing, Line 5 plays a pivotal part in our daily lives, and we are committed to continuing to operate it safely as we have for nearly 70 years,” Moeller said.

On January 29, the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy issued permits for Enbridge’s Great Lakes Tunnel Project.  The Great Lakes Tunnel will eliminate the risk of an anchor strike and virtually eliminate the potential of any release from Line 5 into the Straits by encasing a replacement section of Line 5 well below the lakebed. Enbridge is investing approximately $500 million to construct the tunnel. The company says protecting the Great Lakes, the people who rely on them, and ensuring energy for the region are the main focuses of the tunnel project team.

“The Great Lakes Tunnel is best way to safeguard the precious waters of the Great Lakes,” said Moeller, “and help ensure that low-cost, safe and reliable energy keeps flowing to Michigan, neighboring states and Canada’s two largest provinces.”