Ottawa ramps up pressure on Biden to keep Line 5 open
Ottawa is pushing on several diplomatic fronts against the U.S. state of Michigan’s efforts to close a cross-border oil pipeline, the second such dispute since Joe Biden became U.S. president in January, complicating the governments’ efforts to work together to lower carbon emissions.
The conflict over the aging but key pipeline highlights the disruptions caused by a global shift away from fossil fuels. Both governments are working to accelerate the energy transition, but their oil industries are interdependent, so a policy shift in one country can affect energy supply, and the political balance, in the other.
The United States imports more crude from Canada than any other nation, at about 3.7 million barrels per day, or about 80%of Canada’s crude output.
Ottawa’s strategy, according to four sources familiar with the government’s thinking, is to repeatedly raise the issue of Enbridge Inc’s Line 5 with numerous U.S. counterparts – including Biden – to get them to pressure Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to keep the pipeline open.
Last November, Michigan ordered Line 5 to shut by May 13, citing the environmental risk of a possible leak in the four-mile (6-km) stretch of the 540,000-bpd line passing under the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes.
The White House has shown no sign of responding to Canadian entreaties, so Ottawa is considering more drastic options, including a threat to invoke an obscure bilateral treaty to keep Line 5 operating or intervene in the legal dispute currently playing out in U.S. courts.
Line 5, which flows crude oil and refined products from Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, via Michigan, has been in operation for nearly 70 years, but officials in Michigan are increasingly alarmed by its advanced age.
The line has never leaked into the straits but there have been at least eight other spills since 1980, according to U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration data.
The imbroglio over Line 5 comes just three months after Biden angered the Canadian oil and gas industry by cancelling a permit for the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project on his first day in office.