Politics masquerading as environmental concern are at it again


I have written about Michigan’s Line 5 before. Last year, I called for a common-sense middle road that exercised caution in protecting our beautiful Great Lakes but did so in a manner that did not put the burden on the working-class folks of Michigan.

Well, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is at it again and is now making piecemeal of the project by issuing decision after decision while Attorney General Dana Nessel advocates for its permanent closure.

Enbridge, the company that runs Line 5 and supplies oil and natural gas at prices most folks can afford, reported a shift in one of the supports for one half of the line under the Straits of Mackinac. No oil was spilled and no leaks occurred. They immediately shut down both branches and began inspections. They discovered that the west branch was completely intact, but still had questions about the east leg.

After reporting to the federal level regulatory organization (the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) and getting their permission, Enbridge reopened the west branch with the intent of continuing to the next level of testing that can only be done when the pipe is in operation. The east branch remained closed.

Nessel somehow earned a court injunction based on Enbridge’s alleged irresponsible behavior that endangers the Great Lakes. Really? No oil spilled. Enbridge’s monitors detected the issue and immediately shut down. Enbridge reported all its data to the state and the federal authorities and on the recommendation of the experts (versus the politicians and activists) they reopened the (completely undamaged) west branch.

Where is the irresponsibility? Where is the mal-intent being alleged by the AG and green activist groups? Where is the risk to the Great Lakes that demands Line 5 be completely shut down? This is clearly a huge overreaching attempt by the AG (with Gov. Whitmer’s consent) to accomplish what they have failed to do in the past.

The result, with the help of an activist judge that seems to know more about pipeline safety than the federal regulatory agency, is to shut down the employer of thousands of Michiganders that supplies gas and oil at reasonable prices to millions of other citizens. It is temporary right now, but all must understand, AG Nessel’s goal is and always has been to kill Line 5 forever.

There is no mention of the reality that Line 5 is an economic lifeline for our state, responsible for: fueling the state’s $20 billion lumber industry; providing nearly a third of feedstock for the Detroit Marathon refinery; and meeting 55% of statewide propane demand. Nor are the consequences of shutting down the project confined to Michigan. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is worried that 1,000 of his constituents will become political collateral if Line 5 is shut down and Ohio refineries are snuffed out in consequence as he expressed in a letter to Whitmer.

Unfortunately, she makes no suggestions for how we will replace its functions and the jobs it provides.

Adding thousands of additional long-haul tractor trucks to Michigan’s already shaky road/highway infrastructure? Let the reader be the judge of the wisdom of that. Also ignored by Nessel and her green friends is that over-the-road transport means hundreds of thousands of additional transfers of fossil fuels, actually raising the risks of spills, which again I remind you have still never happened to Line 5.

Oh, and all this will happen in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis that has gut-punched Michigan’s economy already.

Rather than shut down Line 5, officials should push Enbridge to complete the planning, design and ultimately completion of the tunnel under the Straits that will give us what we really need: continued functioning and safety for the Great Lakes. Seemingly, Nessel’s fixation on killing Line 5 at all costs, with no consideration to the collateral effects on the people of Michigan, will not allow her to consider this reasonable (for all sides) option. It is all her way, or continual legal warfare.

Nessel, Gov. Whitmer and their activist allies are wrong on this. We can protect the Great Lakes without completely dumping on our workforce. Please, Madame AG, give common sense a chance — it is almost always better than extremism.

Steve Bucci is a former Pentagon official now serving as a visiting research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He is a resident of Harbor Springs.

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