Years of legal challenges and appeals appeared to be nearly exhausted when Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued the November 2020 cease-and-desist order for the Line 5 pipeline, demanding the company stop flowing oil through the line by May 12. The pipeline, owned by Canadian-based Enbridge Energy, runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac and has operated safely since its construction in 1953. Enbridge uses Line 5 to serve PBF Energy’s 123-year-old Toledo Refining Co. plant in East Toledo, which employs 585 people, and the BP-Husky Toledo refinery in Oregon, which employs 625 people.
Line 5 is currently still operating, stating that, "...[they] will not be shutting down Line 5 in May unless ordered by a court or the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which [they] view as unlikely." The closure of pipeline would undoubtedly result in significant negative impacts to the region. It would take an estimated 2,100 tanker trucks per day to move the equivalent amount of crude oil currently being moved through the pipeline daily. This would be understandably cost prohibitive, resulting in the closure of the two refineries in Ohio and likely additional refineries in Michigan and Canada. In addition to the 1,200 direct employees, the refineries contract out roughly 1,000,000 man hours of work for Building Trades union workers in Ohio and Michigan every year. Such closures would cause rippling effects in other areas including price shocks to vehicle and aviation fuel as well as downstream impacts to available feedstocks for the chemistry industry.
Ohio's Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost have all gone on the record in support of the pipeline in the past. In August of 2020, OCTC weighed-in to support Enbridge’s request for Act 16 approval of its Straits Line 5 Replacement Segment Project, when the request was pending with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The project would have provided Enbridge the authority to replace and relocate the pipeline segment in question into a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The replacement segment would take what is already a minimal environmental risk down to near zero, while securing critical regional fuel supplies.
The OCTC recognizes that Line 5 is a critical piece of infrastructure for transporting crude oil and natural gas liquids to destinations in the U.S. and Canada, including refineries in Ohio. Pipelines are both the safest and most cost-effective way to move crude oil and petroleum products. OCTC will continue advocating for the ongoing safe operation of the line.