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Keystone XL Pipeline Dispute Builds Tension between US and Canada

Months after President Joe Biden broke with Canadian officials by canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, an imminent showdown over a second crude oil pipeline threatens to sever already frayed relations between the two neighbors. Last fall, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer directed Enbridge to shut down Line 5, a crucial piece of a crude supply network connecting Alberta’s oil fields to refineries in the United States Midwest and eastern Canada.

Whitmer’s demand was welcomed by environmentalists and Native American tribes who had long feared that the Keystone XL pipeline, which runs 645 miles across northern Wisconsin and Michigan, was ripe for a spill that would devastate two Great Lakes. The bottom of Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, is crossed by a 4-mile stretch. The region is a popular tourist destination, and many tribes have commercial fishing rights in the straits that are secured by treaties.

However, as the governor’s May 12 closure deadline approaches, Canadian officials are rallying behind Enbridge, which is contesting the order in a US court and stating that it will not comply. The Calgary-based firm claims Whitmer is abusing her power and that the 68-year-old Keystone XL pipeline is in good working order.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, said, “Our government supports the continued safe operation of Enbridge’s Line 5. It is a vital part of Canadian energy security, and I have been very clear that its continued operation is non-negotiable.” A Canadian House of Commons committee cautioned this month that closure would result in job losses, gasoline shortages, and traffic nightmares.

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