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Michigan commission seeks public comments on Line 5 tunnel project

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Enbridge's application to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac to house Line 5 — a 66-year-old oil and natural gas pipeline — has been put on hold by the Michigan Public Service Commission until it takes public comment.

The Canadian energy company submitted an application to state and federal regulators earlier this month to secure a permit seeking to begin construction on a roughly 4-mile utility tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Approval of the permit would green light the Canadian oil pipeline giant to begin construction on the Great Lakes Tunnel Project next year with a target operational date in 2024.

The commission is being asked by Enbridge for a "declaratory ruling that it already has the authority to construct the replacement segment based on the Commission’s original 1953 order granting authority for the Line 5 pipeline," according to a Public Service Commission news release.

Fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the Line 5 pipeline near St. Ignace on June 8, 2017.

Written or electronic comments will be accepted no later than May 13, officials said. Electronic comments are to be e-mailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov and should reference case number U-20763. Written comments may be addressed to: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, 7109 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917.  

The tunnel would house Enbridge’s new Line 5 oil pipeline and replace a 67-year-old dual span that transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of natural gas liquids and crude oil along the lake bed between the Upper and Lower peninsulas.

The project’s permit phase is moving forward under court order as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel battle the continued operation of the existing pipeline in court.

Both Whitmer and Nessel spoke out against the pipeline on the campaign trail and challenged Enbridge’s agreement with Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder shortly after taking office in 2019.

The pipeline has been a source of concern for environmental groups worried about the catastrophic effects of a potential spill from the line, especially in light of the 2010 Enbridge spill along the Kalamazoo River in Marshall.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming