Michigan Newspaper Calls Gov. Whitmer 'Clueless' Amid Pipeline Dispute, Fuel Shortages

A Michigan newspaper said Governor Gretchen Whitmer appeared "as if she was clueless" when she ordered an energy company to shut down an oil and gas pipeline amid fuel shortage fears last week.

The Detroit News said in an editorial published Saturday that Whitmer's push to shut the Line 5 pipeline was "indefensible" in the wake of the Colonial pipeline's shutdown and ensuing fuel shortages.

The local newspaper also said the Democratic state leader's alternative proposal to carry the fuel by rail or road instead was "ridiculously inadequate," and argued that infrastructure would "buckle" were her plan to go ahead.

The Canadian firm that operates Line 5, Enbridge, flouted an order to shut down the oil pipeline last week. Gov. Whitmer responded by threatening to go after company profits made from the pipeline after its closure deadline.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has threatened to go after profits made by the pipeline's operator after the ordered shut down date. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

"It was as if she was clueless to the unfolding crisis caused when the Colonial line went down," the Detroit News editorial read. "Had Enbridge obeyed the governor's edict and ceased transporting products through Line 5, Michigan and other Midwestern states would have experienced a similar plight."

The newspaper later added: "The United States has a treaty with Canada forbidding either country from interfering with the cross-border transport of oil.

"For the good of Michigan and the rest of the country, the Biden administration should advise Whitmer that her actions are in violation of that pact and contrary to the best interests of the nation."

Michigan authorities told Enbridge to shut down its Line 5 pipeline passing through the Great Lakes region by Wednesday last week as Whitmer described it as a "ticking time bomb" that could cause damage to the state's environment should a spill occur.

But the company told The Guardian that the underwater section of Line 5 had never leaked, and added that it was working to improve the safety of the pipeline. The Canadian Government have backed a case Enbridge brought to federal court over the threatened pipeline closure.

Writing an op-ed for The Washington Post on Friday, Whitmer said she was "taking every action" to shut down the pipeline, and noted that Enbridge's Line 6B pipeline burst and spilled into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

"The Great Lakes support more than 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually across the United States," Whitmer wrote. "We cannot continue to run the risk of the devastating economic, environmental and public health impacts that would follow a disaster involving Line 5."

Releasing a statement to Newsweek, the governor's office said she was "following through on her promise to protect and defend the Great Lakes, which are vital to our economy and way of life," and reiterated her view that the pipeline was a "ticking time bomb."

"What is happening with the Colonial Pipeline right now shows the danger of relying heavily on a single energy supply," her press secretary Bobby Leddy added. "That's why Governor Whitmer has put in place a plan to protect jobs, diversify and expand our renewable energy resources, and ensure Michigan's energy needs are met, while also taking action to get the oil out of the water as soon as possible.

"If Enbridge continues to operate the pipeline beyond the deadline, the state will seek to disgorge the company of its profits earned while unlawfully trespassing on state land."