The steady drumbeat of opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign to close the Line 5 pipeline appears to be working, with the state engaging in two recent retreats.
Line 5, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac, carries 540,000 barrels of light crude and natural gas to refineries in Michigan and other points around the region, where they are refined into gasoline, jet fuels and propane.
Both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have, from their first days in office, opposed this pipeline. They have also worked to delay plans to relocate Line 5 to a cement-lined shaft, 100 feet below the bed of the lakes.
In November 2021, the governor revoked an easement that lets the Canadian energy company Enbridge operate Line 5. She claimed that the pipeline represented an unreasonable risk and gave Enbridge just six months to shut it down.
Enbridge responded with a suit in federal court, seeking to move the issue there. Early in that case, both parties agreed to mediation. But in September 2021, Michigan staged its first retreat. State officials withdrew from mediation efforts, claiming they were unproductive. They also requested that U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff forbid the mediator from publishing any details of what transpired.
Shortly after this initial retreat, media reports revealed that the Biden administration was considering the costs of shutting the pipeline. White House officials, however, immediately walked that report back. The Mackinac Center covered the seesawing White House announcements in appearances on the Fox Business Channel, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill and National Review.
Only a few days after the White House spectacle, Judge Neff dealt a major blow to the governor’s legal arguments by rejecting the attorney general’s request to send the case back to state court.
Michigan then made its second retreat. The attorney general dropped the state’s own federal lawsuit, saying her office would refocus its legal efforts on a lawsuit the state filed in 2019 and adding, “State courts should have the final say.”
The announcements about changing legal strategies appear aimed at preventing embarrassing losses in federal court. But they do little more than extend
the final decisions about Line 5 beyond the next election and continue the governor’s long-term campaign against the reliable energy sources that Michiganders need to stay safe and warm.