Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline: What to know

Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline has been caught in the crosshairs of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and tribal nations

The Biden administration has been caught in the middle of a fight between Enbridge Energy, the Canadian government, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and tribal nations over the operation of the Line 5 pipeline.

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Here is a FOX Business roundup everything you need to know about the controversy surrounding Line 5.


What is Line 5?

Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that transports up to 22.68 million gallons, or 540,000 barrels per day, of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids through Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas — originating in Superior, Wisconsin, and terminating in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The pipeline supplies approximately 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula and 55% of Michigan's statewide propane needs. 

Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that transports up to 22.68 million gallons, or 540,000 barrels per day, of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids through Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas—originating in S (Enbridge)

The Line 5 pipeline splits into two 20-inch diameter lines for a 4.5-mile section that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Built in 1953 by the Bechtel Corporation, the Line 5 Straits of Mackinac crossing has never experienced a leak in its 65-year history, according to Enbridge


Line 5 controversy and White House response

In November 2020, Whitmer revoked Line 5's 1953 easement through the Straits and ordered Enbridge to close it within six months, or by May 12. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also filed a separate lawsuit to enforce that decree.

In response, Enbridge filed a lawsuit against the closure order, arguing that Line 5 is safe in full compliance with federal pipeline safety standards, citing approval for operation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in June and September 2020. Enbridge previously told FOX Business that it had "no intention" of shutting down Line 5 and that the state's order "ignores scientific evidence and is based on inaccurate and outdated information."

In this June 8, 2017 file photo, fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St. Ignace as Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Mackina (AP Newsroom)

In a Nov. 4 letter, a group of 12 tribal nations warned that a potential leak from the pipeline would have devastating impacts to the environment and the Great Lakes and Michigan’s coastal economies. 

"We view Line 5 as an existential threat to our treaty-protected rights, resources, and fundamental way of life as Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes," the letter reads. "In contrast to Canada’s vocal support of Enbridge, and despite what we understand to be the Governor’s requests for help, your Administration has thus far been silent regarding Line 5."

The letter asks for Biden to file an official statement of interest via the U.S. Department of Justice affirming the validity of Whitmer’s May 12 shutdown order, seriously consider revocation of the 1991 Presidential Permit that allows Line 5 to operate, and give tribal nations a seat at the negotiating table with the Canadian government, who has invoked the dispute resolution provisions of the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty, seeking to halt Whitmer's closure order. 

While not commenting directly on the letter, a senior White House official told FOX Business that they "expect that both the U.S. and Canada will engage constructively in those negotiations."

"In addition to being one of our closest allies, Canada remains a key U.S. partner in energy trade as well as efforts to address climate change and protect the environment," the official added. 


What would be the impact of a potential shutdown of Line 5?

State Republican Congressmen Tim Walberg, MI-07; Bob Latta, OH-05; Jack Bergman, MI-01, and 10 other House members argued in a separate letter that Line 5 is "essential to the lifeblood of the Midwest."

"Should this pipeline be shut down, tens of thousands of jobs would be lost across Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the region; billions of dollars in economy activity would be in jeopardy; and the environment would be at greater risk due to additional trucks operating on roadways and railroads carrying hazardous materials where that is even possible," the letter reads. "Additionally, as we enter the winter months and temperatures drop across the Midwest, the termination of Line 5 will undoubtedly further exacerbate shortages and price increases in home heating fuels like natural gas and propane at a time when Americans are already facing rapidly rising energy prices, steep home heating costs, global supply shortages, and skyrocketing gas prices." 

If the Line 5 pipeline were to shut down, Enbridge argues that its refinery customers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec would see a shortage of gas, diesel and jet fuel of about 14.7 million gallons per day, or about 45% of current supply. Michigan alone would face a propane supply shortage of 756,000 gallons per day and would have to find an alternative supply for anywhere from 4.2 million to 7.77 million US gallons of refined products a day, according to the company.

Depending on where people live, the Energy Information Administration has warned that residential costs this winter will rise between roughly $11 to $14 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) for natural gas, compared to around $7 to 12 per mcf for natural gas last year, about $2.50-$3.50 per gallon for propane, compared to around $1.50-$2.50 per gallon for propane last year, and almost $3.50 per gallon for heating oil, compared to $2.50 per gallon for heating oil last year.

After speculation that the current Line 5 pipeline was under review to be cancelled, the White House clarified that they are studying a potential Line 5 replacement, which has been in the works well before Gov. Whitmer’s dispute.

FOX Business' Edward Lawrence and FOX News' Peter Doocy contributed to this report