Canada Warns Michigan Oil Line Shutdown Could Undermine US Ties


According to the Michigan Advance, state officials will need a court order to shut down the pipeline on Wednesday, as Enbridge says it will not comply with Whitmer and Canadian officials have lined up behind the company. Line 5 brings 540,000 barrel-per-day of oil from western Canada to refineries and airports in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. But with a court-appointed mediator scheduled to meet with the two sides again on May 18, it's not clear whether anything will happen before then.

The stakes are significant. Homeowners that rely on propane to warm their homes in MI could see prices increase.

"Line 5 is operating safely, reliably and is in compliance with the law". Whitmer, who faces a potentially hard re-election fight next year, is trying to shut the Enbridge line years before a replacement can be built.

Canada's ambassador to the U.S., Kristen Hillman, told CBC that a shutdown of the line, " is not a threat to Canada's national economic or energy security", adding, "I think that it is an important dispute or disagreement that exists between Enbridge and the state of MI that needs to be taken very seriously.

Shutting down the Line 5 pipeline in MI would deal a "massive and potentially permanent" blow to Canada's economy and energy security and risk lasting damage to relations with the United States, the federal government argues in court documents released Tuesday.

Whitmer, a Democrat, wrote to Enbridge on Tuesday threatening to seize company profits if Line 5 continues to operate past the Wednesday deadline. "So no decisions, in our view, are imminent".

"The proposed shutdown would cause a massive and potentially permanent disruption to Canada's economy and energy security", say the documents, known in legal parlance as an amicus brief.

"Line 5 is essential to our energy security". MI and Enbridge have been engaged in court-ordered mediation since April.

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"It is understandable that the people of MI are extremely sensitive to the risky 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".

Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer has set May 12 as the day by which Line 5 must cease operations after giving notice last year she would revoke a 67-year-old easement permit that allowed the pipeline to cross the Straits of Mackinac, a major waterway.

A US judge isn't expected to rule on whether the case belongs in state or federal court until later this year, so don't expect the pipeline to stop operating any time soon, Matthew Taylor, an analyst at Tudor Pickering & Holt, said in a note.

"Their continued presence violates the public trust and poses a grave threat to Michigan's environment and economy", Whitmer said in a statement this week.

Enbridge insists the pipeline is safe, and has already received the state's approval for a $500-million effort to dig a tunnel beneath the straits that would house the line's twin pipes and protect them from anchor strikes. Should the existing one be shut, the company has some capacity on an alternate line that bypasses the Great Lakes "but it's not going to make a difference", Monaco said.

Litigation could drag on until at least 2024, said Joe Comartin, Canada's consul general in Detroit who is arguing on behalf of Ottawa. A federal judge is considering which court should have jurisdiction.

"From the dynamic risk of shutting down Line 5, we're looking at a $120 million increase in transportation fuel cost alone just in MI", said Chris Ventura, Midwest executive director for Consumer Energy Alliance. "Let's get on with keeping this line operating and get back to a normal Canadian-U.S. relationship".