MI Senate Approves Line 5 Oversight Panel
In a move to eventually see the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac, in Michigan, the state Senate voted last week to create the three-member Mackinac Straights Corridor Authority, an entity that would oversee the construction of the replacement pipeline and a new utility tunnel.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is working to finalize the October agreement with Enbridge. Line 5, currently 65 years old, carries roughly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids daily from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario, cutting through Michigan on its route.
Line 5 History
The twin pipeline has been subject to increasing controversy in recent years as evidence of coating delamination and unsupported lengths of pipeline has raised concerns about a release in the Great Lakes. Line 5 has never leaked, and in the summer of 2017 passed a high-pressure hydrotest; Enbridge has said that the pipeline poses no risk to the region, but neighbors, legislators and environmentalists have noted that any spill from the line could cause major damage to the environment in the tourism-heavy region.
A worst-case spill on Line 5, according to a recent risk analysis by Michigan Technological University, could affect more than 400 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and come with a price tag of more than $1.8 billion.
A lawsuit filed at the end of August by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the National Wildlife Fund alleged that a top Coast Guard official testified under oath in front of Congress last year that the service is not adequately prepared for a worst-case spill on the line, though the Coast Guard does have a contingency plan in place to do just that.
According to Crain’s Detroit Business, creating the panel is an essential step toward replacing the underwater pipeline. The project is slated to take seven to 10 years to complete, and the cost of replacing the pipeline could range from $350 million to $500 million, all paid for by Enbridge. The Mackinac Bridge Authority would own the tunnel, however.
Democratic governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer pledged during her campaign to see Line 5 shut down. Whitmer takes office in January.
"This rushed, half-baked legislation to advance the Snyder/Enbridge tunnel scheme is a diversion from the real issue that Michigan simply doesn't need Line 5," said Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation.