GOP reps urge haste on Line 5 tunnel environmental impact study

GOP reps urge haste on Line 5 tunnel environmental impact study

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of 35 Michigan Republicans are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up its review of the environmental impact for Enbridge’s proposed tunnel to replace Line 5.

A letter seeking to fast-track the review was penned by state Rep. Dave Prestin, R-Cedar River, and co-signed by several lawmakers from West Michigan, including state Reps. Bryan Posthumus, R-Rockford; Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville; and Angela Rigas, R-Alto.

The $500 million plan was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission in December, but federal law dictates that construction cannot start until the USACE can confirm that the project will not “significantly affect the quality of the human environment.”

Previous reports stated a ruling from the USACE could take until 2026. In a letter to Michael Connor, the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the group of Michigan representatives called for an “expeditious completion.”

“A tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac is the optimal solution to safeguard the Great Lakes while ensuring vital energy products are continuously provided to residents in Upper and Lower Michigan, as well as communities nationwide,” the letter stated. “Given that Line 5 serves over half of Michigan’s propane customers, its role is pivotal in ensuring propane affordability.”

Michigan regulators approve $500M pipeline tunnel project under channel linking 2 Great Lakes

Documents from a federal lawsuit seem to dispute those claims, including statements from Enbridge’s own scientists, who estimated the prices of gasoline and propane would see no noticeable increase. An Enbridge spokesperson accused critics of “cherry picking” parts of the analysis and presenting that data without context.

Enbridge Pipeline Map_111020
Enbridge Pipeline Map_111020

Line 5 has been a top issue for environmentalists across the Midwest, who believe the pipeline is too great a threat to the Great Lakes and that Enbridge should be forced to reroute its pipeline instead of allowing it to rebuild in the Straits of Mackinac.

“There have been studies for years that show we don’t need Line 5,” Sean McBrearty, the legislative and policy director for Clean Water Action, told News 8 in 2022. “(Enbridge) needs Line 5 to keep their profits flowing, but Michigan doesn’t need Line 5, the region doesn’t need Line 5, and not even Canada needs Line 5.”

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The letter focused on previous statements by the USACE that declares it a neutral party in the fight over Line 5, including past declarations that “other concerns pertaining to the Line 5 pipeline were deemed outside the purview of the EIS” and that the Corps “does not have authority over the operation of Line 5 or continued operation of Line 5.”

“Given this information, it seems that approval of the project is inevitable,” the letter reads.

Line 5 carries up to 540,000 barrels of fuel each day from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The section in the Straits of Mackinac was built in 1953. Before being installed, the line was tested and proved able to withstand four times the pressure it receives on the lakebed.

A 2016 study out of the University of Michigan ran simulations of how a major leak in the Straits of Mackinac would impact the Great Lakes. The study ran 840 simulations of a leak of 25,000 barrels of fuel. Researchers estimate up to 720 miles of total shoreline would be damaged and cost billions in cleanup, not factoring in revenue lost in the shipping, fishing and tourism industries.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous sentence about Line 5’s durability has been removed due to a lack of context. We regret the error.

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