Horse gets in governor’s building during Line 5 protest

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Unless they’re hauling cops, horses are rarely part of protests near Michigan’s Capitol.

Clifford and Nancy Bailey briefly made it into the building that contains Gov. Rick Snyder’s office on Thursday to call on the governor to shut down Line 5.

But on Thursday, 26-year-old Clifford made it into a nearby building that contains Gov. Rick Snyder’s office during a demonstration calling on the governor and Attorney General Bill Schuette to shut down Line 5. The horse and its owner were escorted out of the building by law enforcement.

“We just went in because we want to see Line 5 gone,” said Nancy Bailey, a 56-year-old Charlotte resident who brings Clifford to lots of public appearances..

She’s had Clifford for 25 years, Bailey said, although the only other protest he’s taken part in was another Line 5 demonstration two years ago.

“He loves to play in the water, and we want to have clean water, so we went in there, and we were in there for a couple minutes anyway,” Bailey said. “He’s a Line 5 guy.”

They were two of dozens of other demonstrators showing their displeasure over the pipeline. Environmental activists with Oil and Water Don’t Mix delivered “tens of thousands” of comments to state offices on Thursday, according to the group.

In response to questions over rules about horses in the George W. Romney Building, which contains Snyder’s office, the governor’s spokeswoman responded: "Any animals besides service animals are prohibited in state buildings, and Clifford was not represented as a service animal," Anna Heaton said.

Enbridge’s controversial twin pipelines carry some 23 million gallons of oil and some liquid natural gas a day through the Straits of Mackinac.

Activists have long called for the state to shut down the line, citing too great of an environmental threat if the pipeline were to rupture and spill oil into the Great Lakes.

The Canadian energy company has been under heavy scrutiny, and state officials have expressed declining trust after the company disclosed that engineers had known about damage to the line’s exterior coating since 2014 but did not reveal the issue until this year.

The company at first understated the extent of the damage to state officials but still maintains there was no corrosion to the pipeline and it’s not in any greater danger of leaking or rupturing because of 48 sections missing coating. Enbridge had at first said that only several sections were missing coating.

Regardless, Stanwood resident Dan Woods, 63, said it’s time to shut down Line 5.

“If you take a coat hanger, continue to bend it, eventually it’ll break,” said the retired paint and auto body shop worker. “We’re not worried that it won’t break, we’re worried that when it does break the damage will be irreparable.”

Jessica Fujan, senior midwest director for Food & Water Watch in Chicago, said she and other environmentalists will be watching Schuette in the coming months during his campaign for Michigan governor.

“So this winter and all through 2018, we’ll be looking out for Attorney General Bill Schuette to make the right decision on Line 5, and when he does, we will applaud him, and if he doesn’t: Coal in his stocking,” Fujan said.