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Sarnia's mayor warns Line 5 shutdown would harm economy on both sides of border

Troy Shantz If Michigan succeeds in shutting down the Line 5 pipeline it will cause a regional energy crisis and serious economic pain, Sarnia’s mayor says.
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The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in south Sarnia. Journal file photo

Troy Shantz

If Michigan succeeds in shutting down the Line 5 pipeline it will cause a regional energy crisis and serious economic pain, Sarnia’s mayor says.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered Canada’s Enbridge Energy to stop using the Sarnia-bound pipeline by May of 2021. She wants Line 5 decommissioned, claiming it places the Great Lakes at risk of a catastrophic oil spill.

In a letter to Whitmer last week, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley urged her to reconsider, saying Michigan’s move would result in an energy shortage and higher fuel costs on both sides of the border.

“Your decision will create an unnecessary energy crisis at the height of a global pandemic, ensuring economic downturn and result in regional energy shortages and higher energy prices that will impact Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec,” Bradley said.

Mike Bradley

Line 5 is a major pipeline used by U.S. and local refineries to produce propane, gasoline, and asphalt, as well as providing the feedstock for chemical, plastic and rubber manufacturers.

On its route from Wisconsin to Sarnia it passes through the Straits of Mackinac, which connect lakes Huron and Michigan.

Line 5 conveys about 87 million litres of western Canadian crude and natural gas liquids daily and the feedstock for three local refineries and related manufacturers.

About one in four local jobs and 70% of Ontario's daily energy needs are provided by Sarnia-Lambton’s petrochemical complex, Bradley told Whitmer.

“On behalf of the citizens and 5,000 plus petrochemical workers of Sarnia-Lambton and area, I urge you to reconsider your decision to shut down Line 5.”

Enbridge has filed a federal complaint in Michigan court seeking an injunction to stop the shutdown order.

Gretchen WhitmerPhoto courtesy, Julia Pickett

The company claims Michigan is interfering in federal regulation of pipeline safety and is in violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

But Michigan officials say the risk of a Line 5 oil spill can’t be reconciled with the public’s right and the state’s duty to protect the Great Lakes.

Michigan’s opposition intensified in 2018 after a ship dropped a 12,000-pound anchor in the Straits, slicing cables and dinging the pipeline.

Reportedly the tugboat and barge operator responsible didn’t know it happened until two days later.

This summer Enbridge finished replacing a section of Line 5 where it passes beneath the St. Clair River. A bore hole was drilled below the river and the replacement pipe pulled through from one side to the other.

The project was completed on schedule and without incident, and the pipeline went into service again on July 31, the company said.

Bradley reminded Governor Whitmer that Enbridge plans to replace the Line 5 section in the Straits of Mackinac with a single pipe housed in a tunnel drilled through bedrock beneath the lakebed.

“Instead of listening to the fringe activists looking to advance a political agenda, I urge you to think of the mainstream majority of those who elected you to put working families first,” Bradley wrote.

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