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Opinion: Line 5 tunnel project best bet for Michigan

Chris Ventura

In a June letter about the Line 5 pipeline, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wrote: "As governor of the Great Lakes State, I carry an immense burden to protect this priceless treasure that defines the contours of our state and our way of life.”

When a politician feels an immense burden is weighing them down, there is only one acceptable solution to show how much of a burden it is — set up a task force to study the issue. 

It matters little however many previous task forces have been convened, whether earlier efforts created a bipartisan solution, or even if courts have ruled against politically-motivated, taxpayer-funded lawsuits time after time. It’s never enough, at least when common sense has given way to posturing.

Nearly all the time wasted in court — and that’s to say nothing of the money — could have been better spent on the safest option available to Michigan: Finishing the Line 5 pipeline, Ventura writes.

Nearly all the time wasted in court — and that’s to say nothing of the money — could have been better spent on the safest option available to Michigan: finishing the Line 5 pipeline.

What do we know about Line 5?  Line 5 has been the center of task force discussions since 2014. The Pipeline Task Force sponsored an in-depth analysis looking at Line 5 and all of the available alternatives to supply Michigan with the energy needed to meet basic economic demand in the most environmentally responsible way. Michigan’s Legislature then took this under consideration, and in 2018 achieved a bipartisan consensus, laying the groundwork for the Line 5 tunnel project to safely route the existing pipeline through solid rock up to 200 feet below the lake bed.

But, what else do we need to know, if the governor is “burdened” with this issue? We know that multiple politically-motivated lawsuits have been filed and paid for by taxpayer dollars. They have all ended in defeat.

We know that the Line 5 tunnel project will inject a half a billion dollars of private money into our economy. We know this project will put our skilled union tradespeople and women back to work, enabling them to support their families and keep moving Michigan forward. 

What is even more curious about this immense “burden” is that outside of politically motivated lawsuits, the only other action from the current administration has been an executive order to create another task force that will examine impacts from shutting down Line 5 to “formulate alternative solutions for meeting the Upper Peninsula’s energy needs, with a focus on security, reliability, affordability, and environmental soundness.”

In government speak, this is an elaborate way to dance around and further delay the fact that there is no other way to provide for the energy needs of the Upper Peninsula without Line 5 since it provides 65% of the region’s propane supply. The only other way to meet these daily demands is to put the energy equivalent of Line 5 onto 2,000 trucks or 800 railcars each and every day. How is this better for Michigan’s environment?

What’s even more ridiculous is this vaunted “new” task force doesn’t have to issue any suggestions to resolve Michigan’s growing energy needs until March 2021. In the two years this administration has spent suing Line 5, more than half of the project could have been completed, based on the submitted construction timeline.  

This all sounds misguided and politically motivated, spurred on by loud anti-energy voices. And it will only achieve higher energy prices we don’t need now when we are trying to jump-start our economic recovery.

There is one easy way to protect our Great Lakes for future generations — let the Line 5 tunnel project go forward without any more delays and wasted taxpayer dollars. 

Chris Ventura is Midwest director of Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.