Mike Shriberg, Ph.D., is the regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center and a lecturer at the University of Michigan. He was previously appointed by former Governor Snyder to serve on Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.
As a candidate, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer railed against former Governor Snyder’s attempt to ink a deal that left Line 5 in place for an indefinite period.
“These steps are a handful of belated half-measures that put far too much faith in a company that has consistently misled the public. This isn’t enough, and for the sake of the one million jobs that depend on the health of our Great Lakes, we must do everything in our power to protect them. That is why as Governor, I will immediately file to enjoin the easement and begin the legal process to decommission Line 5, and anything short of that is insincere.”
Unfortunately, Whitmer has fallen into the trap of taking “belated half-measures” with her indecision and failure to follow through by revoking Enbridge’s easement. Enbridge has continued to mislead the public and show why it cannot be trusted, which is a key reason why my organization was the first to raise the issue of Line 5’s future publicly. The pipeline is showing its age and vulnerability, including at least two more strikes from maritime objects, and it’s clear that the Great Lakes are at great and immediate risk.
Whitmer has shown she’s unafraid to take strong actions even in the face of unrelenting, misguided resistance. Her leadership during this pandemic has been exemplary – she’s stood strong in the face of misogynistic and vitriolic attacks. She has my personal and professional respect for her strength of character, leadership and strong, science-based decision-making.
Yet, on Line 5, she is hesitant.
This case is clear and straightforward. According to recent reports, the governor has the internal document that outlines easement violations, which surely include violating “due care” provisions and provide more than ample legal justification for action.
The fiscal and economic implications should not be a cause for major concern. The state’s analysis shows Line 5 supplies marginal amounts of energy to Michigan and, with proper planning, alternatives can be utilized. This coincides with an independent analysis from London Economics International, an Enbridge-funded alternatives analysis and recent data that the recent Line 5 shutdown had no impact on energy prices and availability.
There are powerful interests lobbying against decommissioning Line 5, including business and elements of the labor communities aligned with the fossil fuel industry. It also includes leadership in the state Legislature – Enbridge has spent heavily on lobbying and PR, and it shows.
Governor Whitmer’s political legacy will be decided in part by Line 5. The legal underbrush has largely been cleared and the time for studies has passed – it’s now time for a decision. Whitmer challenged the sincerity of former Governor Snyder because of his lack of action. Was she sincere in saying that she’s putting the interests of the Great Lakes, the recreational tourism economy, our drinking water and our very way of life above the interests of a powerful foreign corporation?
We’ve seen that Governor Whitmer has nerves of steel, strong decision-making skills and demonstrates great leadership – it’s time to apply that approach to Line 5 by following through on her promise to decommission it. Anything less – “half-measures” as she called them – would be insincere.