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Groups Urge White House to Support 'Line 5' Shutdown

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021   

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. - Environmental groups and tribal communities are asking the Biden administration to stand with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her call to shut down the Line 5 dual pipelines, which run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Canada recently invoked a 1977 treaty to get the United States to allow Enbridge Energy to continue using the pipelines, and has said shutting them down would disrupt Canada's natural-gas supply. But Beth Wallace, manager of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Freshwater campaigns, pointed out that Line 5 has spilled more than 1 million gallons of oil into the Straits of Mackinac during its nearly 70-year history.

"They're ignoring the pipeline has dozens of locations where protective coating has failed," she said. "The pipeline is bent in at least two locations. It continues to be hit by bow anchors undetected."

On Tuesday, groups delivered a petition with more than 33,000 signatures to the office of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., hoping he'll pass it along to the White House. The petition noted that Indigenous treaty rights precede the 1977 treaty between the United States and Canada.

Whitney Gravelle, president of Bay Mills Indian Community, said that in 1836, when tribal nations ceded the lands that became the State of Michigan, they were promised the right to fish, hunt and gather.

"And those treaties include solemn promises that the Anishnaabe, my people, would be able to continue to use the water, the land, within that ceded territory to sustain our way of life," she said.

Gravelle said the 1836 treaty rights are still in place today, and will remain so as future generations continue to exercise them.

Line 5 detractors have cited a recent oil spill off the California coast, where an underwater pipeline rupture went undetected until tens of thousands of gallons already had entered the ocean. If a similar leak occurred with Line 5, said Sean McBrearty, an Oil and Water Don't Mix Coalition campaign coordinator, it could be orders of magnitude worse.

"This pipeline was much newer than Line 5, built in an era when pipeline technology was better than it was in 1953," he said, "and yet the operators in California were not able to shut the line down immediately."

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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