Biden administration wades into Michigan oil pipeline fight with environmental review

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The Biden administration will scrutinize the environmental effects of a portion of a crude oil pipeline in Michigan, wading into a long-waged battle by environmentalists and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to shut down the pipeline.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday it will conduct an environmental impact statement for operator Enbridge Energy’s proposal to construct a tunnel and new pipeline to replace a portion of the current pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

GRETCHEN WHITMER IS AT WAR WITH ANOTHER PIPELINE

Such environmental impact statements often take years. The process provides another venue for activists to air their grievances about Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which environmentalists and tribal groups have long opposed. Line 5 has been among several pipeline fights environmentalists have called on President Joe Biden to weigh in on following his decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline.

Jaime Pinkham, the Army Corps’s acting assistant secretary for civil works, said the agency had determined an environmental impact statement was necessary “because of the potential for impacts significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

The Army Corps “will ensure all potential impacts and reasonable alternatives associated with this project are thoroughly analyzed and will ultimately support a decision on the permit application,” Pinkham said in a statement. He added the thousands of comments and tribal input the agency has received “warrant further review through an EIS, including potential impacts to navigation.”

The Army Corps decision is a small victory for environmentalists, as it could create further hurdles for Enbridge and place the pipeline under further scrutiny.

Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, ordered the entire 645-mile Line 5 pipeline operated by Canadian energy company Enbridge to shut down by May 12, citing risks that the pipeline could leak or spill oil any day.

Whitmer, along with environmentalists, has raised particular concern about the portion of the pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. University of Michigan researchers have said a spill from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline could be devastating to the Great Lakes make up one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water.

Enbridge, however, has defied Whitmer’s shutdown order, saying the pipeline hasn’t leaked into the Straits once in its more than 65 years of operation. The company and its allies have said keeping the pipeline running is critical to energy security, especially in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack and shutdown.

The Biden administration’s authority to scrutinize the project is limited to the proposed crossing of the Straits of Mackinac.

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Currently, Michigan and Enbridge are duking it out in court, fighting over whether litigation to force the Canadian company to shutter the broader pipeline should be heard in state or federal court.

Whitmer’s administration has the backing of environmental activists, both local and national, and tribal groups living on lands near the lakes and the pipeline. Enbridge, meanwhile, enjoys the support of national business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor groups such as the North American Building Trades Union, and the Canadian government.

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Tags: News, Energy and Environment, Climate Change, Oil, Pipelines, Keystone XL, Gretchen Whitmer, Biden Administration

Original Author: Abby Smith

Original Location: Biden administration wades into Michigan oil pipeline fight with environmental review

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