Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Pipeline Project Declares War on Aviation | Flaster Greenberg PC
This article was originally published on Forbes.com May 27, 2021. All rights reserved.
For nearly a month, Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian oil and gas pipeline company, has been operating its Line 5 pipeline in defiance of an order from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to shut down Line 5 operations effective May 12, 2021. The pipeline, which stretches 1,083 kilometers from northern Wisconsin through Michigan to ‘in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, was built in 1953 and transports approximately 500,000 barrels a day of petroleum and natural gas liquids from refineries in Western Canada.
Governor Whitmer says the pipeline, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac, is a “time bomb” that poses a serious threat to Michigan’s environment and economy. It claims that its continued use violates a 1953 easement agreement between Canada and the state of Michigan.
Whitmer’s predecessor as Michigan governor Rick Snyder reached an agreement with Canada in 2018 to build a tunnel through the bedrock of the Strait and then install a new section of the pipeline to the inside this tunnel. Governor Whitmer, who took office in 2019, was unable to agree with Enbridge on the timeline for this work. Now it is demanding that Enbridge completely stop using the pipeline.
If Line 5 were to cease operations, even temporarily, the effects on US and Canadian aviation in particular would be enormous. In turn, the secondary socio-economic impacts for both countries would be significant, but potentially devastating for Canada. Its aviation industry has arguably suffered much more than in the United States from the long siege of the COVID pandemic.
Toronto’s Lester Pearson International Airport, Canada’s largest airport serving Canada’s largest, wealthiest and arguably most important city, receives 100% of its jet fuel from Line 5. Potentially initially, but may – also being for a considerable period of time, it might have to stop working entirely – or at least cover them substantially – if line 5 were to suddenly shut down.
Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan International Airport gets 50% of its jet fuel comes from Line 5. Detroit’s economy, already on a long downward trend for several decades, would struggle to fully recover. Line 5 also feeds Enbridge Line 9, which provides feedstock to refineries in Quebec. These refineries, in turn, produce jet fuel for airports in Montreal and Quebec City, which could also see their services reduced. While they may not experience such severe impacts as in Toronto and Detroit, the impacts of a closure of Line 5 on aviation in these cities would still be significant for their regions and for Canada in those cities. his outfit.
Not surprisingly, Governor Whitmer’s actions sparked outrage in Canada, including within the Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who controls the Canadian Parliament. Ironically, the party stands on a platform of staunch liberalism when it comes to environmental issues in general. Yet on May 12, 2021, the Trudeau-led government made the highly unusual decision to intervene in a US legal process in the Western District of Michigan by filing a legal brief in which it claimed that the to close is illegal and poses a threat to Canada’s energy and environmental security.
The closure of Line 5 is “non-negotiable,” according to Canada’s Minister of National Resources Seamus O’Reagan, who has worked with Canadian provincial ministers on the US legal case. Among other points opposing Governor Whitmer’s action, this case expressly invoked the 1977 treaty on the transit pipeline between the two countries, which prevents one or the other of the parties from interfering with transshipments of energy through the territory of the other. This 1977 treaty was ratified, among others, by then Senator Joseph Biden.
Canada’s legal brief was blunt: “The United States has made a solemn and reciprocal commitment to Canada… not to interfere with the operations of international hydrocarbon transit pipelines. This obligation, with legally binding effect under international law, expressly applies to any measure instituted by a “public authority in the territory of either party”, including the State of Michigan and this tribunal … “
The disruption would not be limited to major hub airports and also to aviation. According to Detroit Free Press“The Detroit and Ohio refineries served by Line 5 send about 23,000 barrels of jet fuel to Ontario by rail daily, according to a 2017 report from the US Energy Information Administration – some of which arguably could. being diverted to the Detroit Metro Airport if a Line 5 stop creates the pinch of jet fuel that some expect. Still, that wouldn’t be enough to meet the combined needs of Metro Detroit and other Michigan airports.
Canada’s aviation problems would be even more pronounced. While Montreal’s Pierre Trudeau International Airport and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport could have potential alternative sources for jet fuel, this is probably not the case in Toronto.
It is estimated that compensate for the loss of the pipeline, Ontario would need to add 2,000 trucks or 500 one-way cars every day. Most of this would not be used for jet fuel. Aside from the potential side impacts of having so many vehicles carrying highly flammable fuel over long distances daily, including but certainly not limited to excessive greenhouse gas emissions, without this fuel at its largest hub, Canadian aviation, already stricken by the coronavirus and in the absence of federal assistance provided to the United States, would suffer yet another massive blow.
The situation of line 5 is another case of externalities not considered by policy makers when making their decisions. It’s not just the law of unintended consequences. It is the inability to really think about the results of any government action.
It is doubtful that Governor Whitmer thought much about aviation when she ordered the closure of Line 5. However, if any of the impacts described above occur, she will have to deal with these issues, as well. than any other consequence.
If this country were not affected, one wonders what the FAA and American airlines would say if they woke up and suddenly found that half of the jet fuel going to one of the country’s most important airports suddenly disappeared. . At the very least, they must now plan for these scenarios as the pipeline wars continue unabated.