Michigan is the Great Lakes state, and those of us fortunate to live in or visit this magnificent place with so much clean, fresh water know better than to take it for granted. The risk of an oil spill anywhere in the Great Lakes is unacceptable. We all must work to protect this resource.
Michigan’s tourism industry is built on the image of pure, clean water. The idea that these precious waters are at risk of a devastating oil spill from the massive Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs on the bottomlands of the Mackinac Straits damages that reputation for tourism and for those of us who call Michigan home. (Download the white paper "Canadian Profits, Michigan Risk," by clicking the report cover at right.)
— Jim Lively, program director
Groundwork was one of the first organizations to recognize and act upon the risk of the Line 5 pipeline in the Great Lakes by organizing a rally at the Mackinac Straits in 2013, which included iconic environmental activist Bill McKibben. Since then we have been actively involved in expanding support for our position that oil pipelines do not belong in the Great Lakes.
Groundwork's actions, along with our partners, were effective in making the hazards of Line 5 an issue in the 2018 campaign season, and Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel were elected on platforms that expressed willingness to apply environmental standards and strict oversight to Line 5.
In an example of Groundwork nimbleness and ability to quickly mobilize people around a cause, we formed the organization Friends of Mackinac Bridge the day after a public meeting that explained state legislators' intent to make the Bridge Authority responsible for the Line 5 pipeline. We asked longtime leaders of the Bridge Authority to join with community members and other fans of the Mackinac Bridge in the Friends group and within a couple of weeks, met in Lansing for a lobby day focused on state legislators. The group's passion and persuasiveness brought major changes in the proposed legislation and their efforts are central to an early 2019 decision by Attorney General Nessel that the bill that passed is unconstitutional.
Groundwork recognizes that top elected officials will need support from not only environmental groups but also business leaders. That’s why we launched the Great Lakes Business Network to coordinate and elevate the voices of business leaders to protect the lakes from the risks posed by Line 5.
Keeping oil out of the Straits
Groundwork launched the initial campaign in 2013 to raise awareness about the risky 1950s era pipelines pumping 23 million gallons of oil every day right through the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac. With our leadership, in less than two years the Line 5 pipeline became Michigan’s top environmental issue.
Groundwork led the formation of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, inviting more than 20 citizen environmental groups to join the effort. And we led the effort to take the bold position to shut down the pipelines, rather than replace or improve them, thereby entirely removing the risk of Line 5 polluting the Great Lakes.
In short, Groundwork has been at the center of efforts to keep oil out of the Great Lakes.
Michigan has legal authority over the fate of the pipelines on the bottomlands of the Great Lakes. To further encourage our state’s leaders to act, we broadened our campaign beyond citizen and environmental groups to reach out to Michigan’s business community—focusing on those companies that benefit from the successful Pure Michigan marketing campaign.
Groundwork research has revealed that Enbridge is using the Line 5 pipeline as a convenient shortcut through the Great Lakes to pump surplus oil beyond Michigan to the East Coast and global markets. Enbridge is risking our ‘Pure Michigan’ waters with oil that we aren’t using. We get all the risk, and Enbridge gets the profit. It’s not a good deal for Michigan, and we believe the state's business community will galvanize around our campaign to shut down Line 5.
In 2014, Groundwork built a coalition of more than 20 statewide and regional citizen and environmental groups to join the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to take action to shut down Line 5.
Groundwork kicked off a widespread media campaign in 2014, unveiling a website that acts as a clearinghouse for breaking pipeline information, and a television commercial that ran across northern Michigan.
Groundwork was the first organization to publicly call for the shutdown of the pipelines. Today, all 20 partner organizations convened by Groundwork in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign call for decomissioning Line.