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Oil pipeline supplying Ohio, Michigan refineries demanded to shut down Wednesday; Company to defy order

Toledo refinery workers, Canadian government urge Michigan to reverse course
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 11:24 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The company operating a pipeline serving Midwest refineries says it’s ignoring an order by Michigan’s governor to shut down as she threatens to go after the company’s profits if it doesn’t comply.

The Line 5 pipeline, operated by the Canadian company Enbridge, delivers crude oil through northern Wisconsin and Michigan to refineries in Canada and the Midwest, including Toledo.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown order came amid environmental concerns about the pipeline, specifically a section below the Straits of Mackinac, calling it a “ticking time bomb” for an oil spill that could spread into the channel which links Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

“We don’t plan to stop operating unless we are ordered by a court,” said Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy.

Analysts believe shutting down the pipeline will drive up gas prices, which are already on the rise thanks to the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and summer season. Plus, the Colonial Pipeline in the Southeast is still recovering from a cyberattack.

Enbridge says 15% of northwest Ohio’s fuel supply would be at risk if Line 5 shuts down, and more than half of Detroit Metro Airport’s jet fuel supplies.

Governor Whitmer sent a letter to Enbridge Tuesday to warn continued operation after Wednesday would constitute an intentional trespass and threatened to seek out any profits it makes after Wednesday.

Still, Michigan Attorney General’s spokesperson said Tuesday that the state can’t force a shutdown without a court order.

Lawyers for the Canadian government are asking the U.S. courts to step in and stop the shutdown. They’re fearing negative impacts on Canada’s economy and warning it could strain relations with the U.S.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s former governor, declined to give a detailed statement Tuesday.

“We don’t weigh in on that. It’s in court right now,” Granholm said. “So, that’s where it sits. It will be decided in court.”

Enbridge argues Michigan doesn’t have the right to order its shut down. It’s challenging that in court, as Michigan waits to see if a judge will require the company to shut down.

Ohio Lieutenant Governor John Husted was in Toledo last week advocating for the pipeline. He doesn’t want the state to force a shutdown. Instead, he wants all sides to come to the bargaining table to find a resolution.

“We recognize Michigan’s governor’s concern about the potential environmental impact of the line,” Husted said. “With reasonable people together, we believe we can solve those issues, do good for the environment, do good for the economy, and do right by the people who are employed. This can be a win-win scenario. It doesn’t have to be a loss-loss scenario.”

On Tuesday, union members who work at the Toledo refinery went to Lansing in support of the pipeline. They placed hundreds of hard hats on the Michigan State Capitol lawn to symbolize the jobs that would be lost if it shuts down.

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