Carrying oil through the waters of the Straits of Mackinac, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is arguably the biggest international, political and environmental issue in the Great Lakes region. Now, with a state-ordered shutdown, rigorous company defenses, debates about acceptable risk, and local jobs at stake, the legal fight involves courts, state politics, and tribal, Canadian and U.S. governments.
WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN APRIL
Have a question about the Great Lakes or life in the region?
Ask Great Lakes Now, and if we can answer it, we might loop it into our coverage so others can learn too.Submit Your Question
When to Watch?
Check your local station for when Great Lakes Now is on in your area.
Premiered on DPTV
Tuesday, April 27, at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Bad Axe, Michigan
Bay County, Michigan
Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
East Lansing, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Green Bay, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Menomonie-Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
Park Falls, Wisconsin
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
The Battle Over Line 5 Goes International
SEGMENT 1 | Straits of Mackinac; Sarnia, Ontario; Ottawa, Ontario; Lansing, Michigan; Superior, Wisconsin
Under the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron, twin pipelines stretch 4.5 miles across the lakebed and carry more than 20 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids every day. The pipelines are part of Enbridge’s Line 5, the pipeline at the center of one of the biggest political and environmental battles in the Great Lakes.
What started as a state-level issue in Michigan now involves Canadian and U.S. officials in government and the energy industry.
A little history: The state of Michigan granted an easement for the construction and operation of Line 5 in 1953 in a document that requires the pipeline to have a protective outer layer and a maximum distance of 75 feet between supports. The easement includes broader requirements, too.
“The easement mandates that Enbridge needs to exercise the due care of a reasonably prudent person in its operation of the pipeline,” says reporter Kelly House, who has reported on Line 5 for Bridge Michigan. “And, you know, given where the debate over the pipeline is now, the question really is whether or not Enbridge is exercising due care in protecting the Straits from a potential oil spill.”
Line 5 became controversial after another Enbridge pipeline — Line 6b — ruptured in 2010, spilling oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. Since then, inspections of Line 5’s underwater pipelines have raised concerns about the risk of a spill, especially after the lines were struck by an anchor in 2018. While Enbridge has insisted the pipeline is safe to operate, opposition to Line 5 has grown, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have both taken action to shut the pipelines down. Whitmer revoked the pipeline’s 1953 easement in November of 2020, setting a deadline of May 12, 2021 for the oil to stop flowing, but Enbridge has said they will not comply with the order.
As the deadline approaches, the courts, state and federal regulators, and the heads of the U.S. and Canadian federal governments all have a role to play in the resolution.
Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories about pipelines:
- Is the Line 5 tunnel a bridge to Michigan’s energy future or a bad deal?
- Canada Speaks: In Enbridge Line 5 debate, Canadian representatives point to the impact on their economy
- Should future plans for Line 5 consider climate change?
- With Line 5 closure, a ‘game of chicken’ over how to heat Upper Peninsula
- EGLE Permits: Michigan agency approves permits needed for Enbridge tunnel project
- Michigan tribe seeks cultural property protection in path of Line 5 project
WATCH: Turtles vs. Oil
WATCH: Line 5 Archive
WATCH: Enbridge Line 5 Update Segment – July 2019
WATCH: Beneath the Surface
Videos from Episode 1024Subscribe on YouTube
Plovers nest on a Chicago beach, suckers spawn in Wisconsin, and storms rage in Duluth.
One lakeside town struggles with PFAS pollution from a local Air Force base, while cities around the region race to remove and replace thousands of lead water pipes. And after a year-long delay, Great Lakes…
Carrying oil through the waters of the Straits of Mackinac, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is arguably the biggest international, political and environmental issue in the Great Lakes region. Now, with a state-ordered shutdown, rigorous…
Invasive mussels are hastening the deterioration of historic Great Lakes shipwrecks, like the submerged Prins Willem V off Milwaukee. Zebra and quagga mussels are also a big problem for water treatment and power plants. But…
Who are the people in this old freighter movie? And where could PFAS be in your home?
The White House and the U.S. Senate change hands. What will it mean for the Great Lakes?
Come aboard a boat that delivers mail to ships on the Great Lakes. Learn about life on a Great Lakes freighter, and dive into some incredible shipwrecks that you don’t necessarily need a scuba tank to see in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.
Lake levels rise, COVID’s in wastewater and invasive species weave new food webs.
Nature is both fragile and fearsome. In the Chicago River, fish populations have suffered since the river became a steel-lined channel, but can floating garden islands restore a more natural habitat? Our region offers spectacular night sky views, but will new satellites mar their beauty? And how are Great Lakes parks coping with COVID-19 and record-setting lake levels?
The health of the Great Lakes is inextricably linked to the health of the rivers that feed them. In northern Minnesota, one river faces environmental threats from a proposed mine. In Michigan, a second river is unleashed when aging hydroelectric dams are removed. In Indiana, a third river is protected from invasive Asian carp, which have infested rivers further south.
Learn more about a little-known Chicago shipwreck that took more lives than the Titanic. Check in on the Kalamazoo River’s wildlife 10 years after the Line 6B pipeline spilled over a million gallons of oil there, and find out if COVID-19 means no basketball tournament in 2020 for four Great Lakes island schools.
Large-scale dairy and animal farms fuel the annual toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie — are regulation loopholes contributing? Record-high water levels are costing lakefront towns millions of dollars, and the Midland dam breach came…
As stay-at-home orders end around the Great Lakes, does Wisconsin’s experience opening businesses predict anything for other tourism-dependent communities? How are researchers, reef restorers and hydroponic farms reacting to the pandemic? Plus, with an increase…
What is the original recipe? It’s a different story depending on who is asked.
Karen Murchie, director of freshwater research at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, talked all about suckers and what they mean for the Great Lakes in this Q&A with GLN Host Ward Detwiler.
The response to Chicago’s lead pipe replacement project is a story playing out in neighborhoods across the country. Government public interest initiatives, even with the best of intentions and resources, are being curtailed by mistrust.
Marine sanctuaries protect shipwrecks while volunteers guard sturgeon against poachers.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.