Lon Johnson, the former Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, has made shutting down Enbridge Oil’s notorious Line 5 oil pipeline the center of his primary bid for Michigan’s 1st Congressional District seat. The controversial pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac and the horror of it rupturing is nearly too horrible to contemplate. Imagine that it fails in the winter time when the lake is covered with several feet of ice. Imagine that hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are released into Lake Michigan, despoiling the shoreline, destroying entire ecosystems, and having a devastating impact on the Great Lakes fisheries. The thought of even the smallest release of oil is the stuff of Michiganders’ nightmares.
The issue is so big that it has transcended partisan boundaries. This isn’t an issue only the Democrats care about. You don’t need to be a tree-hugging dirt worshipper to understand the peril involved with the 63-year old pipeline. Clear evidence of that comes tomorrow when Johnson is teaming up with the Republican mayor of St. Ignace, the city on the north end of the Mackinac Bridge. Johnson and Mayor Connie Litzner will hold a town hall meeting tomorrow, Saturday, March 5th at 2:00 p.m. The event takes place at 275 Marquette Street in St. Ignace.
Johnson, who has been calling for the shutdown of Line 5 for months, said in a statement, “Michiganders around the U.P. [Upper Peninsula] and Northern Michigan are rallying around this issue because the ongoing crisis in Flint demonstrates that we can no longer blindly trust government politicians with our Great Lakes and our jobs. Trust must now give way to vigilance. The time is now to shut down Line 5 until it’s proven independently to be safe. The impact of an oil leak from this aging pipeline upon our health, economy, and wildlife is immeasurable and too important to be risked. I look forward to talking with community members and answering their questions.”
Despite the nonpartisan nature of this fight to save the Great Lakes from a devastating oil spill, Congressman Dan Benishek, the Republican who has the MI-01 seat now, has been essentially silent on the issue as has Johnson’s primary opponent, Kalkaska County Sheriff Jerry Cannon. Should Johnson be successful in his bid to represent the 1st District, he will be the first member of Congress from that area to advocate for the closing of Line 5.