A dispute near the northern U.S. border is threatening relations between America and Canada. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered the shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline, which carries up to 540,000 barrels a day of crude oil and natural gas. Line 5 crosses the Great Lakes for a 5-mile stretch at the Straits of Mackinac. The crossing depends on a 1953 easement, which Michigan is threatening to cancel, citing environmental concerns.
You don’t have to look far to see the consequences of such a shutdown—the Eastern Seaboard just lived through it. After hackers halted operations on the Colonial Pipeline, which serves 45% of the region’s fuel needs, prices skyrocketed, vehicles lined for blocks, and more than 1,000 gas stations ran dry. State and federal governments waived safety and environmental rules for fuel delivery by truck, rail and ship, all of which produce more emissions than pipelines.
Even as the U.S. works to recover the Colonial, Michigan threatens a similar disruption. Line 5 supplies more than half of Michigan’s propane needs, while supporting thousands of jobs. Line 5 supplies 45% of the fuel needs of Canada’s most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec. It delivers all jet fuel to Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson, and heats the homes of millions.
Line 5 has operated across the straits for nearly 70 years without incident. The pipeline operator,
has an agreement with Michigan to replace the Mackinac section with a new line under the lake bed in a cement-encased tunnel, making a leak all but impossible. Why not expedite approval of this project?
As ambassadors to Canada and the U.S., respectively, we saw a similar crisis in 2012 over the Gordie Howe Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. It was the most significant economic and security issue on the northern border at the time.
Teams from the administrations of President Obama and Prime Minister
met with Michigan’s leaders to overcome an impasse on financing. In the end, Canada paid Michigan’s portion of the cost up front, to be repaid later through tolls. The project received a federal permit and a waiver from “Buy American” rules thanks to the advocacy of trades and steelworkers unions. It was a win-win solution—and an example of how diplomacy beats litigation.
We encourage President Biden, Prime Minister
and Gov. Whitmer to work together on a solution that assuages environmental concerns and protects both sides of the border. Pipelines are controversial, but this isn’t about being for or against the environment. Millions depend on the energy pipelines deliver for their homes, jobs and businesses. Shutting down Line 5 would inflict significant hurt, and it won’t deliver a cleaner energy future.
Mr. Jacobson served as U.S. ambassador to Canada, 2009-13, and is vice chair of BMO Financial Group. Mr. Doer served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., 2009-16, and is a senior adviser to Dentons. Enbridge is a customer of BMO and a client of Dentons, Calgary.
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the May 18, 2021, print edition.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .