Inslee Takes Line 5 Debate National

Presidential Candidate Adds His Voice to Pipeline Debate

Washington Gov. and presidential hopeful Jay Inslee wants America to know about Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

Inslee voiced his support for decommissioning the pipeline and preventing the construction of Enbridge’s replacement oil tunnel in a series of tweets.

“The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, and the proposed oil tunnel to replace it, are a clear and present threat to the health of the Great Lakes and to our climate” Inslee said. “They threaten the clean drinking water that millions depend upon.”

Inslee’s comments came at a contentious time in both the Democratic primary and Michigan’s battle over the pipeline. With candidates gearing up for the second primary debate in Detroit, environmental policy remains at the forefront of the conversation.

Yesterday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation that would require every public company to report their potential environmental risk and during the first debate nearly every candidate replied “climate change” when asked what posed the greatest threat to the United States.

Inslee’s campaign has separated itself from the others as especially climate conscious. With many accusing him of running a single-issue campaign on climate change.

Last week Inslee met with activists outside the Marathon Oil Petroleum Refinery in Detroit. While there he posted a video of one such activist named Michelle Martinez, coordinator of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. In the video, Martinez calls the refinery and it’s supplying pipeline “dirty” and “dangerous” before advocating for a “new energy economy.”

And in the leadup to the debate Inslee wants Michigan’s Line 5 to enter the national conversation.

“When the Democratic debates come to Michigan later this month, the Enbridge Line should be a major topic” Inslee said. “I hope that every fellow Democratic candidate for president joins me in opposing this dangerous pipeline.”

Last month, Ohio Gov. Mark DeWine wrote a letter to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asking her to think twice before closing Line 5 because of the potential economic damage the closure could cause.

“As you know, losing Line 5 would also put more than 1,000 good-paying union jobs at risk in Ohio and Michigan,” DeWine wrote. “Our states have much at risk in terms of potential fuel price spikes, lost jobs, airline schedule disruptions and lost transportation project funding.”

Inslee’s criticism of the pipeline and tunnel did not mention the potential economic impact of a shutdown, which Enbridge still maintains is secure and imperative for properly heating homes in the Upper Peninsula. According to the Michigan Propane Gas Association, about 65 percent of propane used in the Upper Peninsula and 50 percent of the propane in the Lower Peninsula comes from refineries supplies by Line 5 and Enbridge aims to continue and secure that trend.

“Enbridge remains committed to moving forward with the tunnel project which would invest $500 million into the State to ensure security of energy supply and reduce risk to the Straits to virtually zero, and could be under construction by 2021 and in service by 2024” said Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy. “The tunnel solution is the best long-term opportunity to secure the energy needs of the State while making an already safe pipeline even safer.”

Over the course of its 66 years of use, the pipeline has not experienced a known leak or failure.

Attorney General Dana Nessel office, who opened a lawsuit in an attempt to speed up the pipeline's closure, consider Inslee's comments a pleasant surprise.

"We were thrilled to see Inslee's comments regarding the pipeline, we also share his concerns regarding the proposed tunnel" said the attorney general's communications director Kelly Rossman-Mckinney. "We definitely hope to see Line 5 brought up in the upcoming debates."

Others hope that other candidates will follow Inslee’s example.

“We have been calling on candidates on the federal and state for closure of the pipeline and tunnel for years” said deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Bob Allison. “People are concerned about what is coming out of their taps.”

Michigan LCV tweeted shortly after Inslee’s comments, asking other presidential candidates to “stand up to big oil companies” and voice their concerns over Line 5.

“We have not endorsed Jay Inslee” Allison said. “We are challenging all candidates to take a stand, no one party owns our ground and drinking water.”
Enbridge remains critical of efforts to decommission the pipeline and halt tunnel construction.

"This is an approach which in our opinion - and that of many others - is likely to result in significant disruption of the State’s energy market and potential job losses for Michigan residents" said Enbridge Executive Vice President Guy Jarvis. "We continue to believe the tunnel is the best solution for Michigan and that Line 5 can continue to be safely operated during the period while the tunnel is being constructed. And we are committed to build it."

Inslee's campaign did not respond to emails or calls asking for clarification of his position on the pipeline regarding its economic importance.

Authored by: Great Lakes News Senior Capitol Reporter Shadrach Strehle