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Canadian officials urge US Congress to prevent Line 5 shutdown

Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, testifies before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, testifies before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Canadian officials urged the U.S. Senate Tuesday to support the continued operation of Line 5. They say the pipeline is key to energy security in North America.

Politicians from both nations called for a strong North American energy alliance. U.S. Senators asked Canadian officials how the two countries can strengthen their relationship and improve energy security.

Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, urged U.S. lawmakers to stop the effort to shut down Line 5. He said a treaty between Canada and the U.S. should prevent that shutdown.

“I call on the United States government to join Canada in demanding that the Governor of Michigan respect the 1977… Pipeline transit treaty by abandoning her efforts,” Kenney said.

The State of Michigan is pushing for the shutdown of the 69-year-old pipeline. Governor Gretchen Whitmer says it poses an unacceptable threat to the Great Lakes and violates the state’s constitution.

At Tuesday’s hearing in Congress, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, spoke about his country’s goal for net-carbon neutrality by 2050 — A goal Michigan shares. However, Wilkinson said, he is strongly opposed to shutting down Line 5 in the meantime.

“There’s no point in going backwards here in terms of energy security,” Wilkinson said. “That would be a step backwards.”

There was no strong pushback in the hearing, held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin did mention concerns about the pipeline’s crossing of the Straits of Mackinac. He asked Wilkinson about Line 5’s safety record.

“Have we ever had a leak or a problem with that pipeline?” asked Manchin.

“Not to my knowledge,” said Wilkinson. “Not anything significant.”

Federal records show more than a million gallons of oil have spilled from Line 5 since 1968. That’s the result of at least 33 incidents along the pipeline between Wisconsin and Ontario.

“The facts are very clear,” said Liz Kirkwood, the director of For Love Of Water, the environmental non-profit known as FLOW. She says she’s disappointed those facts weren’t presented at Tuesday’s hearing.

“To have testimony that is one-sided provides an incomplete picture of the tremendous threat Line 5 poses every single day as an exposed pipeline in the open waters of the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac,” she said.

Litigation is ongoing between Michigan and Enbridge, the Canadian company that operates Line 5. Canada is asking the U.S. Government to step in and prevent a shutdown.

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.