Is This the Last of Line 5?

Activist David Holtz thinks it's long past time

Interview by Wendy Becktold

March 6, 2021

David Holtz stands on a beach with the Mackinac Bridge in the background. He's wearing a baseball cap, an unbuttoned shirt, and khakis.

Photo by Conor Mihell

  • Name: David Holtz
  • Location: Williamston, Michigan
  • Contribution: Communications coordinator for Oil and Water Don't Mix

What is Enbridge Line 5, and why is it a problem?
Line 5 is a 645-mile-long pipeline, a section of which runs through the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. A tremendous amount of shipping goes through there, and any one of those ships could deploy an anchor in an emergency and hook this pipeline. It's been struck by anchors a few times and damaged. Hundreds of miles of the Great Lakes coastline would be impacted if the pipe burst. It would destroy the economy of the Native American nations who rely on commercial fishing.

What is the significance of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's decision last November to revoke the operation agreement for Line 5?
Effective May 12, 2021, Enbridge will no longer have the state's permission to transport oil through the Straits of Mackinac. But it's not over. Enbridge is going to throw the legal kitchen sink at this. And it wants to replace the old pipeline with a new pipeline and put it in a tunnel underneath the Great Lakes. The company is trying to get permits to do that, which we are fighting hard.

How did you get involved in the effort to decommission Line 5?
In 2013, I went to a meeting—someone else was supposed to go, but they couldn't make it. Citizens who lived near the Straits of Mackinac, members of tribes that have treaty rights to the straits, and environmental groups were all present. At the end, we decided that we needed to organize, and that's what we did. Over the course of seven years, we built a real grassroots movement.

Tell me more about the coalition.
It's called Oil and Water Don't Mix. We enlisted almost 32,000 supporters and over 300 Michigan businesses. We've gotten county and local governments throughout the state to pass resolutions supporting the shutdown of Line 5. It's a testimony to Michiganders' love for the Great Lakes that so many people got involved and stayed involved.

Tell me something about yourself that most people don't know.
I used to be a private investigator. One of my jobs was going undercover in karaoke bars and busting DJs who were using bootlegged CDs. I've also been a newspaper reporter. I have a lot of research and investigative skills, which have helped me in my environmental work.

This article appeared in the March/April edition with the headline "The Last of Line 5?"