Governor says she's open to putting oil pipeline underground in the Straits of Mackinac

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she's open to allowing construction of an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the channel where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet, despite ordering state officials not to act on a tunnel plan developed by her predecessor.

Whitmer told reporters Wednesday in Lansing her goal remains getting Enbridge's Line 5 out of the Straits of Mackinac as quickly as possible.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder negotiated a deal with Enbridge to run a new pipeline through a subterranean tunnel that the company hopes to complete by 2024.

Whitmer stopped work on implementing the deal last month after Attorney General Dana Nessel said a law allowing it to proceed was unconstitutional.

But Whitmer said today she'll pursue any strategy to remove the existing pipes from the water quickly, including a tunnel.

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Michigan LCV) today issued the following statement in response to a Detroit News article that reported building a tunnel to replace the 66-year-old Line 5 Pipeline is an option Governor Gretchen Whitmer is considering for the future of the pipeline.

“A Line 5 oil spill would devastate our Great Lakes, our economy and our Michigan way of life. Oil pipelines do not belong in the Great Lakes, and replacing the damaged, aging Line 5 with a tunnel will only continue to keep our Great Lakes at risk," said Lisa Wozniak, executive director at Michigan LCV.

“Allowing oil to flow through the heart of our Great Lakes in any form is dangerous and unacceptable. The people of Michigan should not have to bear the massive risks just for a convenient pass-through for Canadian oil,” added Wozniak. “We urge the governor to pursue alternative options to the tunnel as she has conversations with the oil company responsible for spilling over 1 million gallons of oil since 1968."

Michigan House Republicans today responded to news that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has taken an about-face on rebuilding Line 5 and is now open to building a multi-use utility tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to house the energy pipeline.

“It seems the governor knows good policy when she sees it but has been too busy placating her political base to do the right thing—until now,” said Majority Floor Leader Triston Cole, of Mancelona. “By stopping Line 5 reconstruction in the first place, the governor created a false crisis, which wasted valuable time and money spent planning for the project and delayed crucial energy rate relief for northern Michigan families.”
House Republicans worked with the Snyder Administration on a solution to replace the aging Line 5 pipeline beginning in 2017. After thorough study, it was determined that building a tunnel 100 feet beneath the floor of the Straits of Mackinac would be the safest option for transporting energy between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, as compared to other available options like rail transport or trucking.
“I’m glad the governor has finally joined the Legislature at the table on this important issue,” said Rep. Joe Bellino, chair of the House Energy Committee. “Placing a new Line 5 in a tunnel 100 feet into the bedrock beneath the Straits’ floor is the best solution available for keeping our Great Lakes safe from contamination and delivering reliable energy to Michigan residents, especially those in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. We need to set aside the partisan political games for good and get down to the important work of moving forward with this critical energy infrastructure project. Wasting years and millions of dollars on litigation will only extend the time that the aging, obsolete Line 5 sits on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.”

The new tunnel would also pave the way for improved, cheaper delivery of propane, broadband and electricity to the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, where energy rates continue to climb.

“The governor knew all along that housing Line 5 in a multiuse utility tunnel deep beneath the floor of the Straits of Mackinac was the best and safest option for Michigan but could not bring herself to cooperate with Republican-backed policy,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, who, last week, introduced a resolution calling on the governor to move forward with the Line 5 project. “I'm glad the governor has finally gotten on board with a common-sense solution, but Michigan families need to know her commitment to dialogue goes deeper than political ties. She’s put the safety of hundreds of thousands of U.P. residents at risk for what amounts to a three week-long political stunt to curry favor with the extreme left-wing base of her party.”