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Line 5 opponents see momentum in abandonment of Keystone XL project


Michigan environmental activists saw the cancelation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project Wednesday as an opportunity to redouble their efforts against the Line 5 pipeline.

The Keystone XL line would have been operated by TC Energy to carry oil from Canada to Nebraska.

Line 5, run by Canadian company Enbridge Energy, carries oil through Michigan and under the Straits of Mackinac.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revoked permission to operate the line last month, but Enbridge has dismissed the state’s demands and refused to shut down the line.

David Holtz, a spokesperson for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, which opposes Line 5’s operation, said the success of the campaign against the Keystone XL line shows that energy companies are not invincible.

“The oil industry, as powerful as they are, as wealthy as they are, can be defeated when they’re on the wrong side of an issue,” Holtz said.

“Pipelines are inherently risky. They leak. In the Great Lakes, that’s an unacceptable risk,” he said.

Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle said indigenous communities have been at the forefront of opposition to both Keystone XL and Line 5.

“It gives me hope for the future of our Line 5 fight here in Michigan,” she said. “We have to keep up the good fight like our relatives did out West to ensure the protection of our sacred areas.”

Safeguarding natural resources now ensures they’re unspoiled for future generations, Gravelle said.

With the abandonment of the Keystone XL project, which has dominated national conversations about new pipeline infrastructure for the last few years, there is a chance for Michigan’s Line 5 opposition to gain wider attention, said Jeff Insko, an activist and professor at Oakland University who tracks violations of pipeline safety regulations.

“I think it could be Line 5’s moment,” Insko said.

But he acknowledged the situations are not entirely congruent. Keystone XL was a proposed project that had not yet begun operation. Line 5 has been operating for decades.

“It’s one thing to stop something that hasn’t happened yet. It’s quite another to decide to begin dismantling something that already does exist. That’s much more difficult,” said Insko.

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy said the cancelation of the Keystone KL project has no bearing on the company’s plans for Line 5.

Duffy said Line 5 is vital to Michigan’s economy and supplies energy the region depends on daily. It has operated “safely and reliably for decades,” he said.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.
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