Ontario farmers are watching closely a battle over a pipeline that could have significant implications not only for agriculture, but the province in general.
Enbridge’s so-called Line 5 – which crosses the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac to ferry natural gas liquids and crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan through Michigan to Sarnia – is at the centre of a clash between the Calgary-based pipeline company and Michigan Governor Elizabeth Witmer who wants the aging underwater pipeline retired to avoid a potential failure.
Calling it an unreasonable risk to the Great Lakes, Whitmer is a seeking a legal order to have the pipeline shut down as soon as May 12. On the other hand, forces on both sides of the border are lobbying Whitmer and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep the line open, warning of energy shortages, a potential spike in fuel prices and job losses if it closes.
“I would like to think cooler heads will prevail,” said Brandan Byrne, chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO).
According to Byrne, Line 5 is critical for Ontario, delivering some 540,000 barrels of crude oil per day or about half of the province’s needs. For farmers, losing the line would impact everything from grain drying to heating barns in the winter. And given the pipeline’s capacity, it is not something that could be easily replaced, either through rail or truck, he said.
“There’s really not an alternative at this point,” he said.
In response to the safety concerns, Enbridge has proposed building a tunnel below the straits to house Line 5, but even if approved, is expected to take years to build. In the meantime, the company is refusing the shut the line and is fighting Whitmer’s move in court. For its part, Byrne said the GFO is trying to raise awareness about what is at stake.
With the May 12 deadline looming ever closer, Byrne said he has doubts about whether Line 5 could be realistically shut down, but admitted it is a ‘hot button issue.’
“I’m hoping there’s a solution.”
Source: DePutter Publishing Ltd.
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