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That Line 5 is safe has been validated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the U.S. federal regulator of pipelines. In its more than six decades of operation, there has never been a release from Line 5. As importantly, Enbridge has announced that it plans to virtually eliminate any future risk of a spill into the Great Lakes by replacing the current four-mile twin pipes crossing the Straits of Mackinac with a concrete-encased tunnel in bedrock more than 100 feet below the lakebed.
At the very least, Gov. Whitmer’s unilateral action circumvents existing bilateral trade agreements, including the Transit Pipelines Treaty and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA). The Transit Pipelines Treaty (ratified in 1977 by, among other senators, a young Joe Biden) states that neither federal, state nor provincial governments shall implement measures that would “have the effect of, impeding, diverting, redirecting or interfering with in any way the transmission of hydrocarbon in transit.”
The treaty provides a mechanism for the federal government to negotiate with the United States. Given the national importance of Line 5, our federal leaders need to let the new U.S. administration know that Gov. Whitmer’s move to terminate the Line 5 easement is unacceptable to Canada and in clear violation of international trade agreements such as the Transit Treaty.
There is clearly a lot at stake. Only Ottawa can take the needed action. We encourage our federal leaders to move quickly and decisively to maintain our two countries’ critical, interdependent energy systems and long-standing, mutually beneficial trade relationship.
As both our countries reel from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more important to safeguard our jobs, our economy and our energy security. We need to voice our support for building the Line 5 tunnel. We need to protect Ontario and Quebec workers and continue to deliver the energy that our businesses and families rely on.
Patrick J. Dillon is business manager and secretary treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.