Enbridge suspends flow of Line 5 after protesters enter valve facility

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Enbridge shut down its Line 5 oil pipeline Tuesday after a group of protesters broke into a valve facility along the pipeline's route through Michigan and attempted to stop its flow with a plumber's wrench. 

Enbridge said the stoppage of flow was made out of an "abundance of caution" after the incident at a Tuscola County valve facility Tuesday morning and it should not effect deliveries. 

The company said it supports the prosecution of all those involved in the incident, which was first reported by MLive Tuesday. 

"The actions taken to unlawfully trespass on our facility in Michigan and attempt to tamper with energy infrastructure was reckless and dangerous," said Ryan Duffy, a spokesman for the company.  

"The groups involved in today's incident claim to be protecting the environment, but they do the opposite and put the safety of people at risk — including themselves, first responders and neighboring communities and landowners." 

A protester attempts to manually shut down Line 5 at a valve station near Vassar in Tuscola County on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.

In a video of the incident posted to Facebook, the protest group read a statement saying it was attempting to shutdown the line manually because all other routes have been exhausted to enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's May 12, 2021, shutdown order currently being litigated in federal courts. 

"Enbridge has no legal right to operate this pipeline and the continued operation of Line 5 is an imminent threat to my life and the lives of an untold number of other people and living beings," a man in the video said. 

After reading the statement, the protesters called Enbridge to notify the company that individuals were taking action to enforce the governor's shutdown order and would attempt to shut down the pipeline manually, according to the livestream. 

Protesters then crawled under the fence surrounding the valve facility and began working on equipment inside the fence with a plumber's wrench, eventually manually shutting down the line. Protesters played music during the incident.  

Protesters told MLive that three individuals were detained in connection to the incident.

Tuscola County dispatch referred questions to Michigan State Police. The Michigan State Police did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com