Let Line 5 Flow

This is how environmentalists get a bad name.

So, here’s the deal. There is a 645-mile oil and natural gas pipeline that runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Ontario through northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. It’s vital for the economy in the Upper Great Lakes region. And it runs not too far from our place around Watersmeet, so I feel like I’ve got a personal stake in the thing.

There is a 12-mile stretch east of Superior that runs through the Bad River reservation, and there’s the rub. The tribe wants the pipeline removed from their land. This makes no sense because the reroute would be 41 miles. So, if you’re really concerned about the environment why on earth do you want to replace 12 miles of risk with 41?

And it just got weirder. Yesterday, federal judge William Conley, who has been sympathetic to the tribe up to this point, showed his exasperation with them and their environmental group allies. They petitioned Conley to shut down the pipeline over concerns that recent erosion heightens the risk of a line break. But if that’s the case why won’t the tribe allow Enbridge, the company that owns the line, on the reservation to shore up the soil around the pipe?

“It looks like a strategy, even if it’s just idiocy,” Conley said. “I’m begging the band to just act. Do something to show you’re acting in good faith.”

None of the anti-line advocates are acting in good faith. They simply want to shut down the line, heedless of the cost to a lot of poor folks who rely on it for the energy to heat their homes or run their vehicles — not a lot of public transit up there in the north woods.

The way to tackle climate change is to continue the already brisk transition to clean alternatives, not to force a crisis by prematurely choking off the fossil fuel supply and hurting the very marginalized groups that liberals say they care about.

Have a nice weekend.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “Let Line 5 Flow

  1. Oil is coming this way, one way or another, because most of us still use it to heat our homes and drive our vehicles. Therefore, it seems like pipelines are a safer, better alternative to rail or truck tankers, which are even more hazardous. The obvious solution is renewable energy but that isn’t imminent so we’ll have to take the bad option over the worse one.


  2. You said “It’s vital for the economy in the Upper Great Lakes region.” Is this really true? Or is the 70 year-old Line 5 pipeline largely a shortcut to transport oil from western to eastern Canada? Have you considered the environmental and economic risks of an old, haphazardly maintained pipeline running across the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac? Have you pondered why the notoriously radical governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, is trying to close Line 5?

    The alternatives to Line 5 are no doubt expensive. That expense would raise the cost of propane in Upper Michigan. But I’m guessing that a large oil spill on the bottom of Lakes Michigan and Huron would also be very expensive. Just ask the folks in Marshall MI about the impact of 1+ million gallons of petroleum product in the Kalamazoo River, courtesy of Enbridge.

    Your pursuit of moderation does not justify this thinly considered piece of opinion about a complex issue.


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