Column: Why should we shut down Line 5?

"We cannot continue using fossil fuels for decades more," writes Phyllis Hasbrouck of 350 Wisconsin.

Line 5 reroute.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune
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Federal Judge William Conley has ruled that the Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge has, for nine years, been trespassing on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's reservation along the southern shore of Lake Superior.

Enbridge wants to replace the 12-mile segment with a 42-mile route around the reservation. What’s wrong with that?

Phyllis Hasbrouck
Contributed / Phyllis Hasbrouck

Some say, “we need the jobs” and “we’ll need fossil fuels for decades more.” Consider our reasons, from the local to the global, for disagreeing.

The people who live near lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron treasure the beauty and purity of these lakes. They also value the jobs that would be destroyed were a Line 5 rupture to result in wildlife die-offs and tourists going elsewhere with their dollars. They certainly don’t want their drinking water polluted with petrochemicals. ( Forty million people in the U.S. and Canada drink from the Great Lakes. The interconnectedness means that a rupture anywhere could spread everywhere.)

Even if Enbridge managed to run their pipelines without ruptures, pipeline installation causes serious damage to wildlife, public safety and drinking water. The work of the citizen scientist group Waadookawaad Amikwag/Those Who Help Beaver ( ) proves that when Enbridge rammed their new Line 3 through Northern Minnesota, they breached at least three aquifers, causing millions of gallons to gush out during a drought. According to Waadookawaad Amikwag's Ron Turney, who has extensive video and drone footage of the damage caused by Enbridge, the company had a 63% failure rate in horizontal directional drilling under waterways, resulting in at least 28 frac-outs (unintended releases of drilling fluid), which likely contains toxic chemicals and certainly contains bentonite clay, which can smother aquatic wildlife such as trout fry.


We cannot continue using fossil fuels for decades more. We must put all our intelligence into a quick transition to renewable energy — one that helps the people who would be hurt financially, such as oil workers and people who can’t afford to install solar panels.

Some places are rapidly turning into deserts, but Wisconsin is predicted to get wetter and warmer. Picture what just happened to Pakistan— one-third of the country under water — and imagine that happening here.

We can have cleaner water and air, and avoid the very worst catastrophes that await us if we put aside differences and start this transition now.

Phyllis Hasbrouck is an organizer for 350 Wisconsin, an organization focused on making transformational progress toward environmental justice and solving the climate crisis.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board notes key safety issues, including lack of emergency preparedness and outdated equipment that failed to hold up during an extreme event.

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