While the U.S. seeks to shift away from fossil fuels, the move must be made over time. Issues with the immediate shutdown of pipelines are rising and politicians are at a crossroads of protecting the environment and protecting jobs.
United Steelworkers Local 912 President Justin Donley is fighting to protect the work of his members at the Toledo Refinery in Toledo, Ohio, which processes light sweet crude from Enbridge Line 5. Donley joined the AWF Union Podcast to discuss this ongoing issue and what it would do to certain regional economies in the midwest.
The problem with Enbridge Line 5
Donley explained how Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge to stop operations on Line 5 on May 12, 2021. Despite the governor’s order, the case is tied up in court. He explained how regulating agencies have jurisdiction and a governor cannot legally order a shutdown of a pipeline.
Donley said the problem originated when a tugboat anchor struck the pipeline in 2008. While no leaks occurred, Enbridge came to an agreement with Michigan’s previous governor to build a structure around the pipeline, deep under the bedrock of the Straits of Mackinac.
Although the pipeline has never leaked in its 68 year history, Whitmer nuked the deal and has instead attempted to have the pipeline shutdown.
How does this pipeline support the midwest?
Donley said Enbridge Line 5 plays a crucial role in the Michigan and greater midwestern economy. In addition to supporting the refinery jobs held by the members of USW Local 912, Line 5 supports a myriad of other refineries.
He added that Line 5 supplies the jet fuel for almost all of the regional airports and 50 percent of Michigan’s propane supply.
In addition to destroying local jobs throughout the midwest, decommissioning Line 5 could be detrimental for the environment. Donley explained how the oil would not stop moving, Enbridge would find a way to transport it. Instead of it flowing through a pipeline, the oil would have to be transported via gas guzzling semi trucks that are harsh on roads.