NATIONAL NEWS

Oil Pipeline Disputes Raise Tensions Between U.S. And Canada

Apr 28, 2021, 9:56 AM
FILE: People protest against the Enbridge Energy Line 3 oil pipeline project outside the Governor's...
FILE: People protest against the Enbridge Energy Line 3 oil pipeline project outside the Governor's Mansion on November 14, 2020 in St Paul, Minnesota. The project took a step forward this week after receiving permitting approval from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Months after President Joe Biden snubbed Canadian officials by canceling Keystone XL, an impending showdown over a second crude oil pipeline threatens to further strain ties between the two neighbors that were frayed during the Trump administration.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a top Biden ally, ordered Canadian energy company Enbridge last fall to shut down its Line 5 — a key piece of a crude delivery network from Alberta’s oil fields to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada.

Whitmer’s demand pleased environmentalists and tribes who have long considered the pipeline, which reaches 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) across northern Wisconsin and Michigan, ripe for a spill that could devastate two Great Lakes.

A section roughly 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) long crosses the bottom of Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The area is a popular tourist destination, and several tribes have treaty-protected commercial fishing rights in the straits.

But with the governor’s May 12 shutdown deadline approaching, Canadian officials are lining up behind Enbridge as it contests the order in U.S. court and says it won’t comply. The Calgary-based company says Whitmer is overstepping her authority and that the 68-year-old pipeline is sound.

“Our government supports the continued safe operation of Enbridge’s Line 5,” Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s minister of natural resources, told The Associated Press in an email. “It is a vital part of Canadian energy security, and I have been very clear that its continued operation is non-negotiable.”

A Canadian House of Commons committee this month warned of dire consequences from a shutdown: job losses, fuel shortages and traffic nightmares as 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of petroleum liquids transported daily through Line 5 are shifted to trucks and rail cars considered more susceptible to accidents.

The panel urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian officials to lobby their U.S. counterparts and said that without an agreement, Canada might invoke a 1977 treaty barring either nation from hampering oil and natural gas transmission. O’Regan’s office said the matter had been raised at the “highest levels” of federal and state governments.

The dispute comes as both nations hope to reset their relationship after the presidency of Donald Trump, who put tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and had a turbulent relationship with Trudeau. Biden’s first meeting with a foreign leader was a virtual session with Trudeau in February, where they pledged cooperation on climate change and other matters.

Biden’s cancellation of Keystone XL, a 1,200-mile (1,931-kilometer) pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands, remains a sore point in Canada. Although Trudeau objected to the move, Alberta officials are “extremely disappointed” he isn’t taking stronger action, said Sonya Savage, energy minister in the province home to most of Canada’s oil production.

Now comes Line 5, which few Americans outside the Great Lakes region may know about. But it’s a priority for Canada, the world’s fourth-largest producer and third-largest exporter of oil.

“The Canadians are likely to make this their big issue,” said Christopher Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center, a global policy think tank in Washington, D.C. “This is one where I don’t think (Trudeau) can afford to back down.”

While the Keystone project was halted in early construction, Line 5 has transported Canadian oil since 1953. More than half of Ontario’s supply passes through it, according to Enbridge. It exits Michigan at the border city of Sarnia, Ontario, and connects with another line that provides two-thirds of crude used in Quebec for gasoline, home heating oil and other products.

“It’s an energy lifeline for Canada,” said Mike Fernandez, an Enbridge senior vice president.

Enbridge and its supporters in industry and labor say the pipeline also benefits the U.S. Midwest. It carries oil for jet fuel and gasoline, as well as natural gas liquids made into propane.

Critics say most economic benefits go to Canada, while Michigan risks a rupture that could foul hundreds of miles of waters.

“The Canadians are awfully silent about our shared responsibility to protect the Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the world’s fresh surface water,” said Liz Kirkwood, director of a Michigan group called For Love of Water.

Opposition to oil pipelines in the U.S. has hardened, with fights over Keystone, the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3 in Minnesota drawing protesters.

Climate change hovers over the debate as Biden pursues emission reductions. He canceled Keystone on his first day in office. A week later, he temporarily suspended sales of oil and gas leases from federal lands. Environmentalists want a permanent ban, which could make the U.S. more dependent on Canadian crude whether it’s delivered by pipeline or not.

“That’s the conundrum any administration will find themselves in when their climate goals run headlong into the realities of providing essential energy,” said Drue Pearce, deputy administrator of the federal pipeline safety agency under Trump and now with the Holland and Hart law firm.

No leaks have been reported from Line 5′s underwater pipes. But a National Wildlife Federation report in 2017 said federal documents showed more than two dozen spills from other sections exceeded 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters).

Enbridge has spent about $1 million on ads supporting the pipeline, while opponents have fought it with studies, protests and media events.

But lawsuits the company and Michigan have filed against each other may decide the outcome.

Although the federal government regulates oil pipelines, Great Lakes bottomlands are under state jurisdiction. Michigan granted an easement in 1953 to place Line 5’s twin pipes beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

However, Whitmer revoked it Nov. 13, saying Enbridge had violated its safety requirements — including one that prohibits unsupported gaps beneath the pipes.

There may be little Biden can do to satisfy Canada aside from quietly urging Whitmer to relent. That could be difficult given his ties to the governor, whom Biden considered for his running mate last year and appointed a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

White House spokesperson Vedant Patel declined comment.

U.S. pipeline safety falls under the Department of Transportation, whose Biden-appointed secretary, Pete Buttigieg, endorsed a Line 5 shutdown last year while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. A spokesperson said in an email that the department wasn’t involved in the legal fight between Michigan and Enbridge but will inspect Line 5 in coming months.

Whitmer’s office did not respond to requests for comment. When announcing her shutdown order, she said Enbridge had “imposed on the people of Michigan an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that could devastate our economy and way of life.”

Enbridge reached a deal in 2018 with Michigan’s previous governor, Republican Rick Snyder, to reroute the underwater segment of Line 5 through a new tunnel.

But opponents say the tunnel carries its own environmental risks and the lakes would remain in jeopardy if the pipeline continues operating during years of construction.

Debate over Line 5 and other pipelines illustrates the conflicting priorities for two countries that have pledged to reduce fossil fuel emissions but still burn lots of oil, said Daniel Raimi, a fellow at Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C., policy institute.

“They don’t want to disrupt a crucial piece of infrastructure and cause higher energy prices for consumers,” Raimi said. “It’s a difficult needle to thread.”

___

Brown reported from Billings, Mont.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE PHOTO (Deseret News)...
Associated Press

California murder suspect, teen daughter killed in shootout

California authorities say an abducted 15-year-old girl and her father — a fugitive wanted in the death of the teen’s mother — were killed in a shootout with law enforcement.
20 hours ago
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Taylor Hawkins of honorees Foo Fighters performs onstage during ...
Chloe Melas, CNN

Foo Fighters set to honor Taylor Hawkins in second tribute show

The late Foo Fighters' drummer Taylor Hawkins will be honored in an all-star tribute concert in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
20 hours ago
Waves kick up under a dark sky along the shore of Batabano, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane...
Nouran Salahieh, Jason Hanna and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Hurricane Ian is growing stronger FL governor warns time to evacuate is ‘rapidly running out’

More than 2.5 million Floridians are under some kind of evacuation warning Tuesday as Hurricane Ian marches closer to the state's west coast.
20 hours ago
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House aide Nick Lun...
Associated Press

Jan. 6 panel delays hearing as Hurricane Ian aims at Florida

The House Jan. 6 committee is postponing a hearing scheduled for Wednesday as a hurricane hurtled toward the Florida coast.
20 hours ago
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 27: People look out as clouds from the approaching Hurricane Ia...
Cary Schwanitz

Utah Red Cross sends volunteers to Florida as Hurricane Ian closes in

The American Red Cross of Utah sent trained disaster volunteers and staff to Florida this week as the area prepares for the wrath of Hurricane Ian.
20 hours ago
The Try Guys -- Zach Kornfeld, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer and Keith Habersberger -- in 2017. The g...
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

The Try Guys announce Ned Fulmer is no longer part of the group

The group, which gained popularity at Buzzfeed for their viral videos and eventually departed to begin producing content through their own company, announced on Tuesday that founding member Ned Fulmer "is no longer working with The Try Guys."
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Oil Pipeline Disputes Raise Tensions Between U.S. And Canada