Michigan Pipeline

The Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.

TRAVERSE CITY — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has moved to revoke and terminate the 1953 easement that allows Enbridge to operate dual pipelines transporting petroleum through the Straits of Mackinac, according to an announcement from the governor's office. 

Whitmer and Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources notified Enbridge of the move to terminate Friday, which would force Enbridge to shut down the pipelines by May 12, 2021. 

A lawsuit was filed asking the Ingham County Circuit Court to recognize the termination as valid, with the state citing violation of the public trust doctrine because of the risk that continued operation of the aged pipelines pose to the Great Lakes.

Also cited were Enbridge's "persistent and incurable violations" of the easement's terms and conditions, according to information from the state. 

"Here in Michigan, the Great Lakes define our borders, but they also define who we are as people," Whitmer said in a press release. "Enbridge has routinely refused to take action to protect our Great Lakes and the millions of Americans who depend on them for clean drinking water and good jobs. They have repeatedly violated the terms of the 1953 easement by ignoring structural problems that put our Great Lakes and our families at risk.

“Most importantly, Enbridge has imposed on the people of Michigan an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that could devastate our economy and way of life. That’s why we’re taking action now, and why I will continue to hold accountable anyone who threatens our Great Lakes and fresh water.”

The Great Lakes are home to 21 percent of the world’s fresh surface water and supply drinking water for 48 million people. The pipelines have been struck and dented by anchors from commercial vessels several times in the past two years, most of them by vessels operated by Enbridge contractors, according to the release. 

Eichinger said 67 years of Enbridge records have been reviewed during the past 15 months.

"Enbridge’s historic failures and current non-compliance present too great a risk to our Great Lakes and the people who depend upon them,” Eichinger said in the release. “Our number one priority is protecting the Great Lakes and we will continue to work with our partners across Michigan in pursuit of that objective.”

The state's action does not stop the company from continuing to seek the necessary legal approvals to construct a tunnel, the release states.

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