Line 5 protesters gather in Lansing to deliver 'eviction notices' to Enbridge

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Dozens of activists gathered on the Capitol lawn Thursday and marched to a nearby office building to deliver Line 5 "eviction notices" to offices belonging to Enbridge Energy and its lobbyists. 

The group, organized by Oil and Water Dont, carried signs denouncing the controversial pipeline span in the Straits of Mackinac and others calling for "Climate Action Now" as they also delivered a thank you note to the office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Other activists planned to deliver similar eviction notices Thursday to Enbridge's pump station in Mackinaw City. 

The action comes a day after the state-ordered deadline for the Canadian oil giant to close its 68-year-old dual span, which can carry up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids a day from the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula. 

"We're here to let Enbridge know that we will continue to push back against their dishonest and untrustworthy actions here in this state," said Mary Brady-Enerson, Michigan director for Clean Water Action. "As of midnight last night, they are breaking the law."

Activists gather on the Capitol lawn ahead of a march to Enbridge's Lansing offices to deliver Line 5 eviction notices on Thursday, May 13, 2021, a day after the state-ordered deadline for Enbridge to close the line. The Canadian oil giant has said it will not close the line without a court order.

After years of debate over the future of the line, Whitmer in November revoked the pipeline's easement through the Straits of Mackinac and gave Enbridge six months, or until May 12, to close the line. The state filed suit in Ingham County Circuit Court to uphold the revocation. 

For subscribers:Why Michigan's Native American tribes seek to shut down Line 5

The decision was opposed by energy groups, the state of Ohio and Canada. But it was lauded by state and national environmental groups, which have long feared a spill from the line would have a disastrous effect on the Great Lakes. 

"Enbridge's pipeline is nearly 70 years old," Brady-Enerson said. "When it was built, it was meant to only last for 50 years. Every day that that operates, there are concerns about our Great Lakes, the folks who rely on those Great Lakes for their drinking water and also the economic driver that is our Great Lakes. "

Enbridge has said it will not close the line without a court order. The company removed the state's case to federal court last year and then filed its own lawsuit in federal court seeking a court ruling that regulation of the line is exclusive to federal regulators, not the state. 

The state is fighting to get its case moved back to Ingham County. The state and Enbridge are currently in mediation in Enbridge's federal case. 

Whitmer earlier this week told Enbridge that if it did not close Wednesday, it would have to give up all of its earnings past the closure deadline should the state prevail in court. 

Whitmer's efforts have been opposed by union and energy groups as well as the state of Ohio and the government of Canada. The groups have warned that a sudden shutdown of the line would have huge impacts on energy availability and prices as well as union jobs in the energy industry. 

Environmental groups have said the effect on jobs and energy have been exaggerated and that Enbridge and other parties have had plenty of time to prepare for a shutdown. 

While it fights the state in court, Enbridge still is moving forward in the permitting process for the construction of a $500 million tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac to house a new segment of Line 5. The agreement allowing for the tunnel was entered into under Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com