The pipeline company Enbridge has a risky plan to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac — a terrible idea for many reasons.(1) While the pipeline remains in operation waiting for the tunnel completion catastrophic failure of the existing pipeline could allow oil to quickly spread throughout the Straits.(2) The pipeline could also lead to spills along the nearly 400 other places where the pipeline crosses wetlands and waterways in Michigan.(3,4)
We know we need to move away from fossil fuels fast, not invest more in fossil fuel infrastructure — especially when it poses such a risk to our fragile environment.
Right now, Enbridge’s case is before Michigan’s Public Service Commission, which not only regulates most utilities in the state, but provides some oversight of energy pipelines. Enbridge had asked the MPSC to issue a declaratory ruling saying that building the new tunnel is just maintenance and not a new project — which would mean the MPSC won’t oversee or evaluate the project at all.
We couldn’t disagree more. We believe the tunnel is clearly not just maintenance. We see it as a new project that will keep the aging current pipeline in operation for years until the tunnel is complete. We alerted our supporters, and many of them spoke out to the PSC asking them to deny Enbridge’s request to dodge oversight by the Michigan Public Service Commission, and follow up by exercising their regulatory authority to evaluate the project and take public input.
The good news is that the PSC listened!(5) They denied Enbridge’s request and will be evaluating the proposal on its own merits. The pipeline may not be shut down yet, but we’re going to keep making the case that it’s simply too risky to our precious Great Lakes.
1. Leonard Fleming, “Michigan commission seeks public comments on Line 5 tunnel project,” The Detroit News, April 23, 2020.
2. Dave Schwab, “Worst Case Oil Spill Straits of Mackinac”, Graham Sustainability Institute – University of Michigan, March 2016
3. Garret Ellison, “Enbridge Line 5 has spilled at least 1.1M gallons in past 50 years”, MLive, Updated Jan 19, 2019; Posted Apr 26, 2017
4. John Flesher, “Report: Oil line makes nearly 400 Michigan water crossings”, The Associated Press, June 29, 2018
5. Jack Hall, “MPSC Denies Enbridge Request For Quick Tunnel Approval”, Radio Results Network, Jun 30, 2020