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Protesters Push For Shutdown of Line 5 On Anniversary of Kalamazoo River Oil Spill

Five Line 5 protesters holding signs in downtown Lansing
Ray Garcia
Line 5 Protesters in Downtown Lansing

Opponents of the Line 5 pipeline staged a protest in downtown Lansing nine years to the day after one of the worst oil spills in the midwest.

On July 25, 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River. 800,000 gallons of oil spilled, coating the river and surrounding land

On Thursday, protesters marched through the streets around the Michigan State Capitol to remind people of that oil spill.

“Nine years ago today, Line 6B broke, which was about 20 years younger than Line 5 is right now,” said Sean McBrearty, an organizer with the organization Oil and Water Don’t Mix. “Enbridge left the pipeline running for 17 hours, they increased the pressure in the pipeline and they lied about what the pipeline was carrying.”

It was later found that the pipeline carried bitumen, which is one of the heaviest, stickiest crude oils. 

The protesters want to see Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel follow through with promises of shutting down Live 5 which runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

“We want the governor (and) the attorney general to stand with communities to shut down Line 5," said Justin Onwenu, an environmental justice organizer with the Sierra Club. "We want to make sure to send a message that our great lakes need to be protected."

Enbridge told WKAR News on Thursday that it took responsibility for the Kalamazoo oil spill. The company is also investing $500 million in Michigan to reduce risk to the Straits.

“From the outset, we took full responsibility for our actions and followed through on our commitments to thoroughly clean up the spill, restore fishing and wildlife habitats and make investments to improve access to and enjoyment of the river. The river was opened to the public in 2012,” Enbridge said in a press release. 

In late June, Michigan's attorney general sued to shut down twin 66-year-old oil pipeline in the Great Lakes, saying they pose an "unacceptable risk" and the state cannot wait five to 10 years for Enbridge Inc. to build a tunnel to house replacement pipes running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Democrat Dana Nessel's move came the same day she also sought to dismiss the Canadian company's request for a ruling on the legality of a deal it struck last year with former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to encase a new segment of its Line 5 in the proposed tunnel.

The pipelines are part of Enbridge's Line 5, which carries 23 million gallons of crude oil and propane daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

Only parts of the Kalamazoo River were opened in June 2012, but a full clean-up took another three years to complete. It cost over $1.21 billion to clean the river. Enbridge later reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and EPA to pay $177 million in damages.

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