Last month, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced his plan with Enbridge Energy to build a half-billion dollar tunnel to continue moving oil across the largest cluster of freshwater lakes in the country in the Straits of Mackinac.
Under the proposed deal, the tunnel would be built by Enbridge and owned and operated by the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA), whose mission is to preserve and maintain the State of Michigan’s single largest asset and one of the world’s leading suspension bridges, not run an oil pipeline.
The MBA board members allegedly didn’t even know about this deal and were not asked for input until after it was announced by the Governor. Now, some members of the board suspect that some of the MBA members were working with Snyder and Enbridge on this deal all along.
Governor Snyder and his allies have introduced SB 1197 in the lame duck session that would allow MBA to own and operate this tunnel and lease it out to Enbridge. If this bill is passed, the MBA would be able to vote on the tunnel deal by calling a special meeting before Line 5 opponents Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer and incoming Attorney General Dana Nessel take office in January. Governor Snyder has expanded MBA’s board from 3 to 7 members, stacking it with people likely going to vote in his favor. The bill would fast-track the approval of Enbridge’s tunnel without public input.
During the construction of the tunnel, the existing Line 5 will remain in the Straits of Mackinac for up to a decade, with possible extensions on the horizon. If this deal goes through, the existing Line 5 could be over three-quarters of a century old before it’s permanently decommissioned.
Line 5 was constructed in 1953, before the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act was adopted and it did not go through a permitting process to ensure that it would not pose a threat to the Great Lakes or to the public’s use of the waters for fishing or navigation. Although Enbridge plans to replace the Line 5 pipeline with a tunnel, a full environmental review has not been called for by any regulatory agency.
Thanks to this latest deal, Governor Snyder would like to pretend that he jump-started a plan to shut down Line 5, initiated an infrastructure project to deliver energy to Michigan residents. Meanwhile Enbridge continues to profit while putting Michigan’s environment, drinking water, public health, and economy at grave risk.
Why Michigan Lawmakers Should Reject Line 5
- Risk to Great Lakes: The 65 year old line 5 is a ticking time bomb that poses a significant threat to the water supply for more than 35 million people. It also threatens 1.5 million jobs linked to the Great Lakes.
- Lack of Accountability: MBA members are appointed by the Governor, not elected, and therefore not accountable by the people of Michigan. A board appointed by a single Governor who has a dubious record on clean water issues in Michigan (Detroit, Flint, Nestle, PFAS, and more) is unacceptable.
- Lack of Authority: Mackinac Bridge Authority does not have the expertise, nor the authority, to adequately manage an oil and natural gas pipeline. Passing off the responsibility for an oil pipeline to the MBA allows both the State of Michigan and Enbridge Energy to circumvent an environmental review and responsibility.
- We Need Clean Energy to Protect the Climate: According to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to avoid devastating impacts from climate change to our food, water, and communities, governments must initiate “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” This means governments should not permit any new fossil fuel infrastructure. We need to begin shutting down fossil fuels project and quickly transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035, at the latest.