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Line 5 shutdown

Opponents of Enbridge's Line 5 gathered at a pump station to force a shutdown of the controversial pipeline on October 19, 2021. (Photo: Resist Line 3/Twitter/screenshot)

'Stop Line 5': Valve Turner Forces Shutdown of Enbridge Oil Pipeline in Michigan

"We are here to protect the water, land, and air that support all life, including our own. Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense."

Jessica Corbett

Water protectors donning masks gathered at a pump station outside of Vassar, Michigan on Tuesday and chanted "stop Line 5" as an unidentified activist crawled under a fence then used a pipe wrench to close a valve of Enbridge's oil pipeline.

"Out of fear for our lives we shut down Line 5."

The protest, which featured a punk rock performance, was livestreamed on Facebook. MLive reports that activists called Enbridge in advance of the action and company officials "confirmed they opted to shut down Line 5 out of an abundance of caution for communities, first responders, and the protesters themselves."

The action came in response to Enbridge's ongoing refusal to abide by Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's directive to shut down Line 5 by May 12, and Attorney General Dana Nessel's efforts to force the Canadian company to comply—a dispute that is being sorted out in U.S. court and now involves Canada's government invoking a 1977 treaty to keep oil flowing.

"Water is life," the valve turner said in a lengthy statement highlighting Indigenous opposition to the controversial pipeline. "We are here to protect the water, land, and air that support all life, including our own. Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense."

"Enbridge has no legal right to operate this pipeline and the continued operation of Line 5 is an imminent threat to my life, and the lives of an untold number of other people and living beings," the activist added. "All other routes have been exhausted, Enbridge has been operating the pipeline illegally since May 12th, and direct action must be taken to enforce the governor's order and begin healing the Mother Earth."

Echoing that message, Lillian Ellis, a nonbinary transgender person who goes by peatmoss, told MLive that "out of fear for our lives we shut down Line 5."

"We felt our lives are in immediate peril from an oil spill," peatmoss said. "It feels like we are on the edge of global climate collapse, and we needed to take action to stop it."

The 28-year-old—who declined to identify the valve turner—said that law enforcement detained them and two others after most of the protesters left the area. The activist added that they were prepared to be arrested and face criminal charges for the action.

Enbridge representative Ryan Duffy told MLive that Tuesday's action "was not a lawful protest" but rather "a criminal activity that put people and the environment at risk" and that the company supports the prosecution of the people involved in the shutdown.

Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids each day. It splits into two parallel pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Opponents of the pipeline's ongoing operation argue, as Lana Pollack wrote in March, that it "poses an imminent threat to the shared waters that millions of Canadians and Americans depend upon for life, agriculture, commerce, and recreation."

The Canadian company behind the operation is also responsible for Line 3, a controversial tar sands pipeline that has provoked Indigenous-led protests in Minnesota resulting in hundreds of arrests.

Indigenous and climate leaders are pressuring President Joe Biden to shut down both Line 3 and Line 5, highlighting his campaign pledges regarding treaties and the planet.

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