WASHINGTON – The federal government will not let Michigan shut down “Line 5”, an Enbridge cross-border pipeline, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister said Thursday, rejecting opposition comparisons to the expanding Keystone XL project. was canceled.
Seamus O’Regan looked almost combative as he vowed to defend the 1,000-kilometer line, which runs through an environmentally sensitive part of the Great Lakes to connect Wisconsin to the refineries in Sarnia, Ont.
The Federal Minister of Natural Resources calls “line 5” a “non-negotiable” element of the talks with the United States.
“We are fighting for Line 5 on all fronts and we are confident in this fight,” Seamus O’Regan told the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-US Relations.
The Enbridge pipeline transports approximately 540,000 barrels per day of oil and natural gas.
The minister said the pipeline is a vital source of jobs and energy for the northern states of the United States, but also for southwestern Ontario and Quebec.
In November Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered Line 5 closed by May, accusing Calgary-based Enbridge of violating the terms of the deal that allows the line to cross the Lower Strait. of Mackinac.
The strait, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, has powerful currents that experts say make the region the worst possible location for a Great Lakes oil spill.
Opponents of pipelines in the United States – many of the same voices that helped make TC Energy’s Keystone XL expansion project an environmental rallying point for the past decade – have vowed to successfully shut it down.
Enbridge, which plans to fortify the underwater section of the line by routing it through a tunnel under the lake bed, is fighting Gretchen Whitmer’s order in court.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, said Michigan’s concerns about Line 5 predate Gretchen Whitmer and have been the subject of frequent discussion for embassy officials since 2017.
Diplomats and governments will play a role in finding a solution, but resolution of the dispute will likely fall to the state government and Enbridge, she suggested.
“Line 5 is a crucial part of the energy infrastructure of Canada, but also of the United States – this is the main message we send,” Kirsten Hillman told the committee.
She echoed Seamus O’Regan’s remarks on the potential impact the pipeline closure would have not only on Canada, but Michigan and Ohio as well, noting that the pipeline has been operating safely for more than half a century.
“We wholeheartedly and very actively support the continued safe operation of this pipeline,” said Kirsten Hillman.
“The solution to this problem will come through diplomatic means, but it will also come through negotiations between the company and the governor.”
The minister remains hopeful
Minister O’Regan reacted unequivocally on Thursday when asked if he thought the governor’s concerns were well-founded.
“No, I don’t think so,” he replied. “This is a safe pipeline, it has always been a safe pipeline and the owner is taking extra steps to ensure it continues to operate safely.”
Seamus O’Regan also insisted he remains “confident” that Enbridge and Michigan will come to an agreement to allow the line to continue operating before the May deadline set by Governor Whitmer.
Conservative MP Mark Strahl noted that the federal government had failed to stop U.S. President Joe Biden from canceling Keystone XL and asked how the Line 5 plan was different.
“They are very different,” said Minister O’Regan in defending federal Liberal efforts on Keystone XL, a project Joe Biden canceled on his first day in the White House.
He also said he expressed Canada’s views on the two pipelines to US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm when the two first discussed on Wednesday.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press