A Line 5 oil spill would cost billions of dollars. Shutting it down wouldn’t even cost a penny per gallon.

By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service

New court documents in Michigan show that shutting down the Line 5 pipelines, which run under the Straits of Mackinac, would have a negligible impact on the cost of gasoline.

The State of Michigan ordered the pipelines to be closed more than a year ago, but the Canadian gas company Enbridge Energy maintains that would lead to major energy disruptions in the region.

enbridge mackinaw station

A court document from Neil K. Earnest, an energy-industry consultant hired by Enbridge, reveals an estimate that the increase to gas prices would be half of 1 cent per gallon.

Debbie Chizewer, managing attorney with Earthjustice, represents Bay Mills Indian Community – which she noted has depended on the Straits of Mackinac for centuries.

“Shutting down Line 5 will have almost no impact on gas prices,” said Chizewer. “But it will speed the inevitable transition to clean energy and protect communities like Bay Mills from the disastrous consequences of climate change.”

Enbridge Spokesperson Ryan Duffy says the increase of half a penny does not include the cost of job losses to the Michigan economy if Line 5 is shut down – and he notes that estimate is for after replacement infrastructure is in place.

He adds that the war in Ukraine makes this a fraught time to consider closing oil pipelines.

Douglas Jester, managing partner of 5 Lakes Energy, said the document shows the cost of propane will increase by about 9 cents per gallon, but he pointed out that Canada also has been developing pipelines to ship propane to world markets.

He said that would have a larger impact on prices than the closure of Line 5.

“Due to reductions in gasoline demand,” said Jester, “due to electric-vehicle adoption and smart switching from propane to heat pumps, will more than make up for the price increases from closing Line 5.”

Advocates for the Great Lakes urge President Joe Biden to stand with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to activate an orderly shutdown of the pipelines.

They say a spill from Line 5 would cost the Great Lakes billions in damages, threaten thousands of species of wildlife and put drinking water at risk.