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Campaign to save Enbridge Line 5 gaining traction nationally

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Troy Shantz

Michigan has issued permits for Enbridge Energy to begin rerouting Line 5 underground, but the future of the pipeline is far from secure, says Sarnia’s mayor.

“This is a good step,” Mike Bradley said. “It’s showing that Enbridge is doing what they need to do to get approval. But it’s not the victory that we’re looking to see.”

Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy approved initial permits for Enbridge, which plans to dig a tunnel in the bedrock below the Mackinac Straits to house a four-mile section of Line 5 that currently sits on the lake bottom.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered Enbridge to shut down the pipeline by May and intends to revoke, on environmental grounds, an easement allowing the pipeline to operate in the Straits.

If the pipeline carrying Alberta crude were shut down it would devastate Sarnia’s economy, killing an estimated 3,000 local jobs and 50,000 jobs in related industries on both sides of the border, officials say.

Enbridge’s plan is to bore a $500-million tunnel nearly 100 feet below the lakebed to sharply reduce the threat of a pipeline rupture and spill.

The project still needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Michigan’s Public Service Commission must also approve the pipeline inside the tunnel, Enbridge told The Journal.

“We will initiate construction on the Great Lakes Tunnel Project once all of the permits required for construction are received,” said spokesperson Tracie Kenyon.

Meanwhile, a campaign in support of Line 5 involving union leaders, corporations, MPP Bob Bailey, MP Marilyn Gladu and Mayor Bradley is growing.

More than 40 Canadian organizations, municipalities and unions signed a full-page ad Jan. 29 in the Globe and Mail calling on Ottawa to engage its U.S. counterpart on the issue.

The campaign also drew support last week from Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, who was scheduled to speak with Bradley on Tuesday.

“I share your concern over the evolving situation in Michigan regarding Line 5 and the impacts that would result from a shutdown of this essential supply artery,” O’Regan said in a letter to the mayor.

“Canada will continue to advocate for the continued safe operation of Enbridge’s Line 5 and for its eventual placement in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.”

Despite Governor Whitmer’s declared intention, Enbridge does not plan to shut down Line 5 unless ordered to by a federal court, Kenyon said.

“Such a shutdown before the completion of the Great Lakes Tunnel Project would lead to major energy shortages in the region and economic consequences for Canada, Michigan and neighboring states.”



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