Heather Wright/The Independent
Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey says one third of the jobs in his riding will be affected if Michigan’s governor closes down Enbridge’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac.
Gretchen Whitmer has given the company until May to close it saying it is a threat to the Great Lakes. The company has plans to replace the twin pipeline with one which runs 100 feet beneath the floor of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River in a concrete tunnel. That has yet to sway the governor to change her mind.
Bailey spoke to a joint session of the Michigan Senate Committees on Energy and Technology, and Natural Resources Tuesday and stressed the importance of Line 5 not only to bring resources to the petrochemical industry and beyond, but to the people in his riding.
“It supports a minimum of 4,900 direct and 23,000 indirect jobs in my riding of Sarnia-Lambton alone,” he told the senators. “That’s one-third of all the jobs in my riding and it supports some $20 billion in trade revenue.”
He also pointed out the impacts of closing the line in May would be far reaching, “including the agricultural sector for drying crops, for possible protein price hikes and supply shortages, construction, transportation, home heating, refining, manufacturing and so many others that are already facing pandemic challenges.”
But some senators, like Winnie Brinks, said building a new pipeline which will last 70 years wasn’t thinking ahead.
“To make an investment…in continuing use of fossil fuels does not seem to be the most enlightened way to go forward,” the Democratic senator said.
Others voiced concern that the pipeline could fail. Not long ago it had been struck by an anchor from a large ship, which brought the issue forward.
Joe Mancinelli, the head of LIUNA 1087 from Sarnia, says the new design would elevate any concerns. “If it failed, it would still be contained within that concrete tunnel. And so what they’re doing is they’re designing these with checks and balances in place in the event that something would happen. “
Both Mancinelli and Bailey urged the US regulators to invite Enbridge to the hearing to talk about the project.
While there were concerns, Bailey did get a sympathetic ear from the Republican Chairman of the committee, David Lauwers. “We’re actually talking about shutting down the safer method to go to less safe methods with higher environmental impact,” he says.
And the Michigan representatives were reminded pipelines are regulated by a binational agreement and the Michigan governor doesn’t have the authority to shutdown Line 5 unilaterally under that document.