It’s Tuesday, November 17, and Michigan’s governor is protecting her state’s Great Lakes.

A longstanding pipeline controversy ended on Friday, when Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the oil and gas company Enbridge to permanently shut down its Line 5 pipeline.

The pipeline crosses a strait between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron — lakes that the state of Michigan is obligated to protect for its citizens under what is known as the “public trust doctrine.” After a 15-month investigation into Enbridge’s practices over the past 67 years, Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources found that the company had repeatedly ignored structural problems in its operations, violating the 1953 easement that allowed the company to transport petroleum across the Straits of Mackinac and imposing on Michiganders “an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

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Enbridge has 180 days to comply with the state’s order — by May 2021, no more oil can flow through the Line 5 pipeline.

The Candian energy company has disputed the governor’s order as having “no credible basis,” while environmental advocates and Indigenous tribes that use the Straits of Mackinac for fishing and cultural practices have cheered it. “We are thrilled and thankful,” said Bryan Newland, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, in a statement to the Independent. “This is a monumental step in rectifying the harm that the company has already inflicted upon Bay Mills and other tribal nations for decades.”

Joseph Winters

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Emily Pontecorvo

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