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The pipeline war

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — As gas and energy prices soar, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s environmental extremist attack on Canada-based Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 is looking more and more expensive.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce last week joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, its Canadian counterpart and chambers in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania in a legal brief opposing Whitmer’s legal games over her attempted shutdown of the cross-border pipeline.

“Gov. Whitmer’s attempt to shut down Line 5 will hit Wisconsin families and businesses with higher energy costs at a time when they can least afford it,” said Scott Manley, WMC’s Executive Vice President of Government Relations.

Wisconsin’s combined chamber and manufacturers’ association is calling on Gov. Tony Evers to “publicly and forcefully denounce” Whitmer’s “reckless actions, and demand that she immediately abandon this lawless effort.”

Evers, who also is pushing a far let climate change agenda, has been silent about his fellow Democratic governor’s efforts to kill a long stretch of the critical pipeline that carries as much as 540,000 barrels of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids a day through Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada.

The battle over Line 5 has been raging since late 2020, when Whitmer and her Department of Natural Resources abruptly revoked Enbridge’s 70-year-old easement allowing the line to operate.

Whitmer claimed she was taking the action because the company had violated “the public trust doctrine, given the unreasonable risk that continued operation of the dual pipelines poses to the Great Lakes.”

Enbridge disputes alarmism, noting the state has already signed off on a half-billion dollar planned concrete tunnel beneath Lake Michigan that would protect the dual pipes from breakage.

Whitmer had ordered the shutdown by May 2021, but Enbridge prevailed in federal court in its argument that the Michigan state courts do not have jurisdiction over the international case. Michigan abandoned its challenge, but took up a separate action at the county court level. That case is raising the same jurisdictional questions.

More so, Whitmer and Michigan’s liberal Attorney General Dana Nessel have been criticized for playing political games to keep a legal sword over Enbridge’s Line 5 project. Whitmer claims her administration will not enforce the shutdown order, yet it remains in place

“They are now trying to close the federal courthouse doors to a determination of whether the shutdown order is illegal under federal law while leaving the order in place,” the chambers’ brief states. “Such tactics waste judicial resources and impose significant costs on litigants.”

WMC and the other chambers argue a decision is needed from the court to ensure there are no negative impacts on the business community and urged the court to deny Whitmer’s motion to dismiss.

The existence of the shutdown order — even if it is not being enforced — “carries real harm to Enbridge and to businesses that depend on the interstate and international energy economy to function smoothy,” the brief asserts.

As The Canadian Press reports, Line 5 delivers more than half the propane and home heating oil consumed in Michigan, and is a vital source of energy for Ohio and Pennsylvania as well, to say nothing of Ontario and Quebec.

Shutting it down would be an environmental disaster in its own right, proponents of Line 5 argue, resulting in gasoline shortages, price spikes and some 800 additional oil-laden railcars and 2,000 tanker trucks per day on railways and highways throughout Central Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

“It is time for the federal court to resolve the question of the legality of the governor’s shutdown order,” Mark Agnew, the Canadian chamber’s senior vice-president of policy and government relations, told the publication.

“Line 5 is critical,” U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) recently said, noting he and about 30 percent of his northern Wisconsin constituents heat their homes with propane. They’ve seen propane prices more than double since August 2020.  “That’s Indicative of what happens with this mantra of shutting down fossil fuels. It is hitting Americans.”

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