Editorial: Get out of way of Line 5 tunnel

The Detroit News

A missed deadline in the state’s attempt to block the Line 5 tunnel is fortunate for Michigan residents, who depend on the petroleum pipeline for a reliable, cost efficient supply of energy.

Attorney General Dana Nessel did not file an appeal within the allotted time frame of a June 11 ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals that the law authorizing the tunnel meets constitutional muster.

Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had campaigned on the promise of removing Line 5 from the Straits of Mackinac, and on taking office last year they began a legal assault on the pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc.

Before leaving office, former Gov. Rick Snyder negotiated with Enbridge to bury the pipeline in a concrete tunnel 100 feet below the lake bed. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the deal, which requires the company to pick up the full cost of the $500 million project.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Nessel’s lawsuit argued the law was invalid because of conflicts between the title of the bill and its content. It was a flimsy case from the beginning, and the Appeals Court was right to rule against the state.

Now, the attorney general’s office says it will focus on a second active lawsuit, this one challenging the 67-year-old easement the state provided for the pipeline. The state contends the public trust forbids granting a private right-of-way through Michigan waters.

This lawsuit is just as sketchy. To tell the pipeline operator that the right-of-way it has enjoyed for six decades is now invalid would send the wrong message about the state's integrity to anyone seeking construction permits.

If successful, it would also open up challenges to dozens of other pipelines and electrical transmission lines that cross through rivers and lakes in Michigan.

The tunnel is the best solution to protecting the Great Lakes while continuing to efficiently deliver energy supplies to Michigan homes and businesses. 

To their credit, state agencies have been moving the permits necessary to build the tunnel through the system while the lawsuits are ongoing. Of course, Nessel could file suit to block those permits once issued.

She shouldn't.

Both the attorney general and Whitmer have done enough to demonstrate to their supporters that they have tried their best to fulfill their campaign promise in regards to Line 5.

It's time for them to move aside and allow Enbridge to get Line 5 into the protective tunnel as soon as possible.