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The Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has ordered the suspension of all work on a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac that’s part of a project for the replacement of a section of the Line 5 crude oil pipeline operated by Enbridge.
The order followed an opinion by the state’s new Attorney General, Dana Nessel, who said the bill that allowed the construction of the tunnel violated the state constitution because “it went beyond what the bill’s title reflected,” the Associated Press reports. The AG’s opinion has the force of a law unless a court overrules it, the AP notes.
Enbridge issued a response, stating “Enbridge worked in good faith with the Michigan government on the tunnel project,” adding, “We disagree with the Attorney General’s opinion and continue to believe in the benefits of the tunnel.”
The pipeline producer also noted that the project could help bt 'reducing the chance of a release of product to virtually zero,' 'preventing an anchor strike from a ship in the Straits of Mackinac,' and 'ensuring Michigan will continue to receive the economic benefits from Line 5.'
Last December, The Michigan Legislature approved the Great Lakes pipeline project that envisages the replacement of a section of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which is 65 years old, and agreed to set up a state authority to oversee the construction of a tunnel for a section of the new pipeline.
The new pipeline will replace two old ones and be set in a tunnel, to be drilled at a depth of 100 feet under the four-mile Straits of Macinac linking Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. As part of the deal, Enbridge will pay between US$350 and US$500 million for the construction of the tunnel for the pipeline. The project could take between 7 and 10 years to complete.
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Former Governor Rick Snyder was quick to secure support for the bill approving the project before he left office, but it seems that was not fast enough. Both the new Attorney General and Governor of Michigan made their opposition to the Line 5 replacement project part of their election campaign last year. Governor Whitmer even called for the decommissioning of the existing pipeline on the campaign trail.
Environmental concern about the area seems to be legitimate: a report from a joint U.S.-Canadian advisory organization, the Science Advisory Board, suggested the Straits of Macinac is among more than a dozen locations in the region of the Great Lakes that are vulnerable to oil spills. However, proponents of the replacement project note that a new pipeline would be safer than the 65-old one. Line 5 carries crude oil and natural gas from Ontario to Wisconsin.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.