LANSING, Mich. (WZMQ) – Senate Republicans have issued a letter calling for work to move forward on The Line 5 Tunnel Project in The Mackinac Straits. The letter, addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, was signed by all 18 members of the Senate Republican Caucus.
During a brief Wednesday morning, Republican leader Senator Aric Nesbit said the Great Lakes Tunnel Project is important not just for our state, but the whore region, and for partners in North America and Canada. He said every Michigander is hurt by the delay in the project.
Earlier this year, The U.S. Army Corps announced the Line 5 Tunnel Project could see a delay of up to 16 months. Now, Senate Republicans are saying they’ve been told the project could be paused until 2026 without explanation.
The U.S. Army Corps is in charge of permitting to build the tunnel at the portals on either side of the shore because of the proximity to the Great Lakes. The proposed project would impact around a quarter acre on either side at Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, and McGulpin Point, Mackinaw City, Michigan.
The project was originally a bi-partisan backed solution to replace the existing submerged pipeline constructed in 1953. Senate Republicans said with the recent focus on renewables, that bi-partisan support for the project has waned.
“The tunnel is hundreds of feet below the bottom of the lake. It’s in stone. It provides a way to keep the pipeline out of the lake and be physically inspected by people.” Senator McBroom said. “And it’s a world-class project. I mean, building tunnels like this, there’s a number of them in Europe that are even larger than this one would be, so it’s a very straightforward, and doable. It’s not somebody remaking the wheel here and saying it’s never been done before.”
State Senator Ed McBroom says the objections to the project fall flat when it comes to economic, scientific, and environmental causes. He says at this point, it’s just politics. The Republican Caucus has now authored the letter to call attention to delays that Senator McBroom called unconscionable.
“We offered this letter to try and apply the political pressure because that seems to be the only thing that the Public Service Commission and the Army Corps are currently responding to, is political pressure.”
Engineers at Michigan Technological University played a part in creating the plans with Enbridge Energy. Senator McBroom said that the project is the safest, most efficient, and cheapest way to transport this vital stream of energy and remove the pipeline from the Great Lakes. He said the state-of-the-art design is the best option to relocate liquid natural gas and light crude oil and to co-locate fiber optic and electrical lines as well.
Senator McBroom said the U.P, won’t be ready to remove natural gas from its energy portfolio in time to meet the democrat’s goals. He explained that Michigan, not just the U.P., is one of the largest consumers of propane gas. He said renewing the pipeline would create opportunities, projects, and jobs while secure in Michigan’s stream of energy for the next century, and without using tax pay dollars.
“Some of the people in the administration right now are literally telling us that we won’t have propane in the U.P. after 2050. And their answer to the question ‘well, then what will we have’ is: As of yet undiscovered technology.” Mcbroom said. “That’s a kind of a big thing to hinge everybody’s hopes on for how we’re going to live, work and stay warm.”
Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has also filed her own brief. Her brief is in support of The Bad River Band of The Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians and its lawsuit against the Enbridge Energy Company. The Band seeks to eject Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline from its reservation land.
In May, Nessel filed a brief in support of the band’s case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Nessel’s concern is that erosion of the Bad River’s bank threatens to expose the pipeline directly to the river, which she says would almost certainly cause the pipeline to rupture and release oil into the river, which flows directly into Lake Superior.
The federal court in Wisconsin found that Enbridge is trespassing on the reservation and ordered it to shut down or reroute Line 5 within three years, to pay more than $5 million to the band, and required Enbridge to adopt a plan to shut down the pipeline if erosion reaches a certain point.
Both Enbridge and The Band have appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The band argues that the court’s order does not do enough to protect against the threat of an oil spill.
Nessel filed today in support of the band’s appeal.
“The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Enbridge trespassed on the band’s land and has operated line 5 illegally since 2013,” Nessel said. “This illegal trespass creates a grave risk of an oil spill that would contaminate the bad river, the reservation, and Lake Superior. On behalf of the people of the state of Michigan I am taking this action to protect our great lakes from the threat posed by polluters who value their own bottom line more than our priceless natural resources.”
WZMQ will be following up with Democratic legislators and the Enbridge team to continue this report.