Enviros, tribal leaders face right-wing, pro-Line 5 ‘echo chamber’  ⋆ Michigan Advance

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge has been pushing opponents of its controversial Line 5 oil pipeline for years, arguing that if it were to be shut down, fuel prices would skyrocket and propane supplies would suffer.

A shutdown doesn’t seem imminent, however, as Enbridge is embroiled in a series of legal battles to keep the state from doing so and a victory in this week. But Republicans in Michigan and elsewhere have adhered to that message, and have mirrored Enbridge’s warnings many times, regardless of the veracity of the claims.

Line 5 supporters have not only preemptively blamed Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer for the soaring gas prices caused by a shutdown, but also implied that President Joe Biden was involved in the effort, even though Democrats have no public stance on Line 5.

“It’s all politics,” said David Holtz, spokesman for the anti-Line 5 coalition Oil & Water Don’t Mix. “What comes out of the right echo chamber nationwide is ridiculous. You’re trying to use line 5 simply as a club against President Biden on energy prices, even though line 5 really has nothing to do with energy prices.

“Gasoline prices rise and fall. At the moment they are up. Line 5 has little to do with the prices at the pump, ”said Holtz.

Tribal citizens have long complained about Enbridge’s messaging tactics, some of which attempt to represent an “understanding” between the company and the tribes that they consider misleading and manipulative.

All 12 state-approved tribes in Michigan are publicly opposed to Line 5 and its tunnel-enclosed replacement project.

“It’s an Enbridge media tactic to do this, ask as many questions as possible, be scare-mongers, which seems like a great right-wing tool,” said Holly T. Bird, a Traverse City-based pueblo / Yaqui / Apache lawyer and longtime indigenous activist.

“It really adds to people’s whole concern that they are going to see much higher gas prices and fuel shortages. Really, the evidence is very opposite, ”added Bird.

Indigenous water conservationists in the Strait of Mackinac | Holly T. Vogel

Fuel prices

One of Enbridge’s main arguments has always been that Line 5 keeps energy bills low for residents of northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada.

“There are a lot of people, both Republicans and Democrats, who are concerned that if Line 5 closes, energy prices will go up because it would actually happen. All studies on the subject have consistently shown that energy prices would rise, “said Ryan Duffy, Enbridge spokesman, referring to a study by IHS Markit.

Enbridge also says, citing their own results, a shutdown of Line 5 would cause Michigan to experience a propane shortage of 756,000 gallons per day and increase gas prices.

The company received the go-ahead from the previous administration of GOP Governor Rick Snyder to build a tunnel-enclosed replacement for Line 5, which Enbridge said would help protect energy supplies. A study commissioned by Snyder found that a complete shutdown of Line 5 would result in a 2.13 cents increase at the pump for Michigan consumers and a seasonal increase of 10 to 35 cents for UP propane consumers.

However, a 2015 composite report Scientific advisers from Traverse City-based environmental group For the Love of Water (FLOW) conclude that closing line 5 on the Strait would not disrupt propane supplies in UP or Wisconsin.

“Not more than 5-10 percent of the [light to medium] Crude oil on line 5 goes to the Detroit and Toledo refineries. In reality, it is most likely closer to 5 percent than 10 percent, ”the report said, noting that the“ overwhelming majority ”of Line 5 oil goes to Canada rather than Michigan and other states.

Gas prices rise and fall. At the moment they are up. Line 5 has little to do with prices at the pump.

– Oil & Water Don’t Mix spokesperson David Holtz

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office also cites Enbridge’s claims that a shutdown will drive fuel prices up, on appeal two Studies on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) of London Economics International.

“Previous independent research has shown that the shutdown of Line 5 will have a minimal impact on propane and gasoline prices in Michigan,” said spokeswoman Lynsey Mukomel. “The exaggerated claims to the contrary must not detract from the real, ongoing danger posed by Line 5.”

Whitmer’s office did not return a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Enbridge’s own schedule for fortifying Line 5 looks longer than expected. The company will not begin work on the tunnel until 2024 at the earliest – and the tunnel would likely be completed by 2028 or later, according to documents the NWF recently received legal action against the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Republicans claim the shutdown is imminent

In recent weeks, right media and GOP lawmakers have begun to rail against an alleged impending shutdown of Whitmer and Biden Line 5 that will choke fuel supplies and depress prices.

This includes a number of new claims funded by the DeVos family Michigan Freedom Fund and Michigan Rising Action, in addition to lawmakers like US Reps. Lisa McClain (R-Romeo) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) and GOP government candidates Ryan Kelley. No one responded to requests for further comments.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) listens at a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Trade, Subcommittee on Energy | Michael A. McCoy / Getty Images

On November 8th, Walberg tweeted that closing line 5 would “harm our economy and cause home heating bills to rise early in the winter months,” with a link to a letter he wrote to Biden in which he asked him to keep the heating bills in operation.

The next day, both McClain and Kelley tweeted on Line 5.

“Line 5 will guarantee that Michigander can heat their homes cheaper at a time when gas prices are skyrocketing,” said McClain.

Following Biden and Whitmer in a tweet that day, Kelley said, “Biden and his progressive left agenda [are] aims at line 5.

“As winter approaches, Biden would like the Michigandans to suffer from skyrocketing heating prices or no heat at all. Whitmer just sits there smiling and doesn’t fight for the people of Michigan as usual. #Progressives, “Kelley tweeted.

A recent Politico story reported that the White House is investigating the impact of a Line 5 shutdown on the region, attracting even more criticism from Republicans in Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere.

On the contrary, there clarified by an administrator in an email to the Advance payment, the White House is only considering the impact of Enbridge’s proposed replacement of tunneled Line 5 and is not considering decommissioning the current pipeline.

“No study or anything is currently being done on the closure of the current line,” the official wrote on Nov. 9.

Whitmer himself to close line 5 would also be anything but imminent – and currently the odds seem to be on Enbridge’s side. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Whitmer’s shutdown lawsuit will go to federal court, which experts say would make a possible Enbridge win in the case more likely.

It is so far unclear whether Nessel will try to appeal the decision; Mukomel said Tuesday that her office is “reviewing the decision and considering the next steps.”

Even in the best case for the state – an appeal is allowed, the case stays with the state court and the judge on the 30th if not longer.

Still, the GOP message, which coincides with Enbridge’s, continues to warn of an impending shutdown that will harm Michigan.

Local water conservationists at Mackinac Bridge | Mohammed Cheri

“What is happening in Michigan is that seemingly overnight, a battle to protect the Great Lakes has turned into a nationalized war waged by a foreign corporation and right-wing extremist to overthrow a governor and keep oil profits flowing “, Said Holtz on Thursday.

The coordinated calls to keep oil flowing through the pipeline, backed by a marketing campaign by a multi-million dollar company, challenge Line 5 opponents.

“It’s frustrating,” said Bird, pointing out that she’s even more frustrated with the people who don’t see “the hypocrisy” behind the news.

Those of us who fight to protect water are not doing so for our own financial gain, ”she said. “We do this to protect the sanctity of our water and to shape our future. For us indigenous people, it is for our seventh generation. And for my extended tribal family it is our livelihood, our fishing, our right to collect and maintain our cultural practices and ways of life. “

Bird said the rhetoric on either side should ultimately not detract from the “real problem” which is “the risk to our water” and the environmental impact of a potential Strait oil spill.

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