Finley: Whitmer, Nessel should obey law on Line 5

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Now that a judge has ruled against Attorney General Dana Nessel's attempt to nullify on a technicality the legislation authorizing construction of the Line 5 tunnel, the state should obey its own law and allow the construction to proceed.

Attorney General Dana Nessel issued an opinion earlier this year that the law's unconstitutional because its title is overly vague. It was a flimsy argument, and a Michigan Court of Appeals judge last week ruled it so.

A tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac to house the petroleum pipeline is the surest way to protect the Great Lakes. Delaying it works against the goal of securing Michigan's most vital resource.

Nessel issued an opinion earlier this year that the law is unconstitutional because its title is overly vague. It was a flimsy argument, and a Michigan Court of Appeals judge last week ruled it so. 

Nessel says the state will appeal. She shouldn't. No more taxpayer money should be wasted on a frivolous lawsuit designed to subvert the democratic process and undo a law that was passed by the Legislature and signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder.

The attorney general, supported by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a fellow Democrat. defends a further pursuit of the legal action because she questions the commitment and financial ability of Enbridge, Line 5's owner, to protect the Lakes against a catastrophic spill.

She declared Michigan, "will not rely on a foreign corporation to protect and preserve our state's most precious resource, its Great Lakes." Enbridge is Canadian-owned. Nessel should look at a map. Canada has an equal claim on the Great Lakes, and it is that country's most vital resource as well.

In a separate lawsuit filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, Nessel is asking for a  shutdown of Line 5 on environmental concerns, even though it has never leaked in its more than 60-year history and extensive testing concludes there is no reason to believe a spill is imminent. The line is constantly monitored by Enbridge.

In any case, those concerns were part of the debate when the Line 5 tunnel legislation was moving through the Legislature. Guarding against a spill is the reason Snyder negotiated with Enbridge to build the $500 million tunnel, which will run 100 feet below the lake bed and reduce the danger of an environmental catastrophe to almost zero.

Michigan should honor the law it passed.

If Whitmer and Nessel believe the law requires revising, the appropriate response is to return to the Legislature and negotiate.

But unilaterally rejecting enacted legislation because a new governor and attorney general oppose it sends a terrible message that this is a state governed by political whim rather than the rule of law.

Line 5 is a done deal. Whitmer and Nessel should acknowledge that reality and stop delaying the important work of protecting the Great Lakes.

Catch Nolan Finley on One Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on Detroit Public Television.