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Calls grow to shut down pipeline under Straits of Mackinac

a map shows the straits of mackinac with some satellite imagery
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state
Red lines show where Line 5 crosses Straits of Mackinac

People who want Enbridge Energy's Line 5 shut down plan to make it an issue at next week's policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The oil pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac, near the island.

Enbridge Energy is the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S history, which happened when the company's Line 6B ruptured near Marshall, Michigan in 2010. 

The massive oil spill dismayed a lot of people, including Republican State Sen. Rick Jones. He says Michigan can't risk having a spill in the Great Lakes.

"They say it would take 99 years for Lake Michigan to recover from a spill," Jones says. "Lake Huron perhaps 22 years, and then of course all the other lakes that we have. Forty million people use this for drinking water – and they cannot drink Canadian oil."

Jones says the oil that runs through the pipeline doesn't even benefit Michigan directly. 

"This isn't going to Michigan refineries for the most part," says Jones. "It is simply taking a shortcut, through Michigan, through the Great Lakes, to get over to Sarnia where it can be refined. And perhaps they sell us some gasoline. However, there's no reason to run this through Michigan. They can run it through Ontario and get it to the refinery without endangering our Great Lakes. "

Jones made the comments during a press conference hosted by a coalition of environmental groups called "Oil and Water Don't Mix."

Chris Shepler, president of Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry Service, says he, too, wants the pipeline shut down. 

"Yes, our boats need diesel fuel to operate," says Shepler, "but not at the expense of our Great Lakes. We need to get this pipeline out of the Straits as soon as possible and not let what happened in (Marshall) happen in Northern Michigan.

Proponents of shutting down the pipeline plan a second press conference on Mackinac Island on Tuesday, the day before the Mackinac Policy Conference begins. 

Expected speakers include Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, Republican U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell.

Enbridge Energy says Line 5 is in excellent shape and is safe. You can read the company's defense of keeping the pipeline where it is here.

Disclosure:  Enbridge Energy is a financial supporter of this station.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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