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Whitmer blasts Canada for supporting company with “abysmal” record amid pipeline dispute

On Monday, Canada invoked a treaty with the U.S. and requested that a judge pause litigation over Michigan’s attempts to shut down a Great Lakes oil pipeline. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, said that a portion of the pipeline is an imminent oil spill danger to the Great Lakes and should be closed. The section, Line 5, runs on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, which connects lakes Huron and Michigan at the top of the state’s Lower Peninsula.

An attorney representing Canada said in federal court that the treaty’s dispute settlement process must trigger a pause in any pending lawsuits. Whitmer said she was disappointed with the move to invoke the treaty. “Rather than taking steps to diversify energy supply and ensure resilience, Canada has channeled its efforts into defending an oil company with an abysmal environmental track record,” Whitmer said, noting a Enbridge pipeline rupture into a southwestern Michigan river in 2010.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Michigan lawmakers said that a portion of the pipeline is an imminent oil spill danger to the Great Lakes and should be closed. Witnesses Debra Miller of Ceresco, Michigan, Susan Connolly of Marshall, Michigan, Michelle BarlondSmith of Battle Creek, Michigan, James Lee of Marshall, Michigan, Darla Thorpe of Ceresco, Michigan, Denise Green of Ceresco, Michigan, Executive Director of Great Lakes Regional Center of National Wildlife Federation Andy Buchsbaum, and Beth Wallace are sworn in during a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee September 15, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau made clear that his government is backing Enbridge, the Calgary-based company that operates Line 5. Canada said it requested negotiations with the U.S. about the pipeline.

It cited a provision in a 1977 treaty that said no public authority in either country can take steps to interfere with the flow of hydrocarbons. “For more than 65 years, Line 5 has been the safest way to transport Canadian hydrocarbons from western Canada to central Canada, helping provide energy that is essential for heating homes and powering Canada’s economy,” Garneau said.

Line 5 moves about 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, traversing parts of northern Michigan and Wisconsin. A mediator had been working with Michigan and Enbridge to try to reach a settlement about Line 5, but the talks ended September 9 without an agreement.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of ‘Team Canada,’ from the government of Canada to the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan, for their commitments and efforts to keep Line 5 open,” Enbridge said Monday.

Before Whitmer took office in 2019, Enbridge had reached a deal with Republican Governor Rick Snyder to protect the pipeline by building a tunnel by 2024.

Garneau said Canada supports that plan.


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