Line 5 tunnel decision threatens drinking water, wetlands

On Friday, Jan. 29, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy approved permits for Canadian company Enbridge to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that could house a new Line 5 -- if the pipeline, wrapped up in court cases, is approved.

“One of EGLE’s roles is to protect Michigan’s environment -- it’s in its name,” said Sean Hammond, policy director for Michigan Environmental Council. “Friday’s decision to allow Enbridge, a company known for its oil spills, to build a Line 5 tunnel through our Great Lakes is a step toward environmental peril. The insufficient geotechnical data provided in the application alone should not allow this permit approval.”

Hammond said under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, Enbridge does not have the right to build a tunnel without a bottomlands lease.

“The Straits of Mackinac, where the tunnel would be constructed, is the site of delicate benchmark wetlands considered to be among the best of conditions by the Great Lakes Wetland Monitoring Program,” Hammond added. “The Straits are part of our five interconnected Great Lakes that millions of us drink from and recreate in. As long as Line 5 operates, as it is now, people and ecosystems at risk, and this approval potentially extends the life of the oil pipe 99 years. At a time when we are facing a climate crisis and Governor Whitmer and President Biden are leading the charge to stop the use of fossil fuels, this is the wrong move for Michigan.”

Hammond represents MEC on the steering committee of Oil & Water Don’t Mix, a coalition fighting to keep oil out of the Great Lakes. Hammond and MEC are also intervening in a Michigan Public Service Commission contested case that will determine if a new Line 5 can exist on environmental, human health and financial grounds.

On Nov. 13, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed in court a revocation and termination of Line 5’s 1953 easement in the Straits of Mackinac. Barring court cases, Enbridge has until May 12 to shut down its pipeline.


By Beau Brockett Jr.