Pipe­line in jeop­ardy?

Michi­gan’s govenor-elect promises to kill the project, which would hurt Sarnia Lambton

The Observer (Sarnia) - - FRONT PAGE -

LOUIS PIN

One of Sarnia’s Chem­i­cal Val­ley com­pa­nies is brac­ing for a chal­lenge fol­low­ing Tues­day’s U.S. midterm elec­tions.

Only a month af­ter out­go­ing Michi­gan Gov. Rick Sny­der made a deal with En­bridge to run their new, up­graded Line 5 pipe­line through a tun­nel roughly 30 me­tres be­low the Straits of Mack­inac — a nar­row stretch of wa­ter con­nect­ing lakes Michi­gan and Huron — the Great Lake State voted Demo­crat Gretchen Whit­mer gover­nor.

Dur­ing her cam­paign, Whit­mer promised to kill the ex­pen­sive project.

Whit­mer’s cam­paign web­site states as much: “On the day I take of­fice, I will im­me­di­ately file to en­join the ease­ment and be­gin the le­gal process for shut­ting down Line 5 to pro­tect the Great Lakes, pro­tect our drink­ing wa­ter and pro­tect Michi­gan jobs.”

Whit­mer won the Michi­gan gu­ber­na­to­rial race de­ci­sively over Repub­li­can Bill Schuette Tues­day by more than 300,000 votes. She’ll take of­fice at noon on Jan. 1.

En­bridge has un­til then to pre­pare its de­fence.

“We will con­tinue to work closely with the State of Michi­gan as we have been do­ing,” Ryan Duffy, spokesper­son for En­bridge, said in a state­ment. “En­bridge is com­mit­ted to mov­ing for­ward with the mea­sures in our Oc­to­ber agree­ment.”

Ac­tu­ally can­celling the plan would be a messy af­fair — if pos­si­ble at all. The twin 65-year-old crude oil pipe­lines have been de­cried by crit­ics as an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen, de­spite as­sur­ances from En­bridge they are still safe. Even Schuette, who sup­ported the tun­nel project, agreed the old twin pipes should be de­com­mis­sioned.

“There will be a great ef­fort to get aligned on an out­come we can all agree on,” ad­dded Keith Creagh, di­rec­tor of the Michi­gan Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, stress­ing the cur­rent tun­nel plan is the “most cer­tain strat­egy” for de­com­mis­sion­ing the twin pipe­lines.

A dis­rup­tion of the cur­rent pipe­line would send re­ver­ber­a­tions through Sarnia and Lambton County, where En­bridge pro­cesses crude oil and re­dis­tributes it across On­tario and the United States.

“They do pro­vide a tremen­dous amount of em­ploy­ment,” Steve Arnold, mayor of St. Clair Town­ship, said. “It’s an in­te­gral part of not only this com­mu­nity, but the en­tire eastern (part of Canada). It’s a link be­tween the east and west.

“The Line 5 project is very im­por­tant for us. It’s im­por­tant we keep it op­er­at­ing.”

The project, fi­nal­ized Oct. 3, would be funded en­tirely by En­bridge.

The Al­berta-based com­pany said it ex­pected the project to take seven to 10 years to com­plete, and could cost as much as US$500 mil­lion.

En­bridge does not have a spot­less rep­u­ta­tion in Michi­gan. In 2010, the com­pany was re­spon­si­ble for the in­fa­mous Kala­ma­zoo River oil spill near Mar­shall, when a pipe leaked nearly 3.8-mil­lion litres of crude oil into a cen­tral Michi­gan trib­u­tary cost­ing more than US$1 bil­lion in cleanup costs.

In 2014, En­bridge set­tled with the U.S. govern­ment for $177 mil­lion.

On the other hand, En­bridge’s ef­forts to clean up the area around Mar­shall and to re­im­burse af­fected landown­ers won them points with the lo­cal govern­ment.

“They were very good with us, with the com­mu­nity,” Tom Tarkiewicz, city man­ager for Mar­shall, said. “En­bridge re­sponded very quickly.”

En­bridge did not say whether their pro­jected time­line would be af­fected by a le­gal bat­tle. Whit­mer’s of­fice did not reply to a re­quest for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

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