Gov. Whitmer Takes Step to Block Line 5 Tunnel, Requests AG’s Legal Opinion

Environmental groups are praising one of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first moves in office.

The governor asked the new attorney general to look into the legality of the Enbridge Line 5 tunnel project.

Attorney General Dana Nessel will now draft a legal opinion on legislation passed during the lame duck session.

That legislation signed by former Governor Snyder created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, leading to approved agreements between the state and Enbridge.

The utility tunnel project was then approved by the state, but the new governor wants to know if the rushed legislative process and parts of the law are constitutionally legal.

On the campaign trail Governor Whitmer did not take a position on the planned Line 5 tunnel, but just days into office she made a move that could potentially block it.

“I have not weighed in on the tunnel per se, what I am weighing in on is keeping that old pipeline in the water for seven to ten more years, when we’ve already seen how dangerous that is,” then Governor-Elect Whitmer told 9&10 News in December.

Local environmental groups say her latest move, is a step in the right direction.

“I think one of the biggest concerns we had with the tunnel system was the ten year time window,” Freshwater Future Executive Director Jill Ryan, said.

“We all know the consequences of a break at Line 5 would be terrible and this shows that she really takes this seriously. U think this needs to be done in a way that not only is protective for the Great Lakes but is constitutional and meets all the legal requirements,” Ryan, added.

During the campaign, Whitmer received endorsements from worker’s unions statewide.

Some of those same unions want this tunnel project to go on without disruption, they’re hopeful the governor’s request won’t change much.

“The governor had her campaign promises and she wants to do her due diligence along with the AG to make sure that the tunnel authority and what was put into law in the last period of session was done appropriately,” LIUNA Local 1098 Business Manager Brent Pilarski, said.

I don’t believe it will stall the project or make it go away,” Pilarski, added.

In a statement the energy company said:

Enbridge looks forward to working with Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel to ensure critical infrastructure – like Line 5 – continues to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of the people of Michigan.  We believe there is an opportunity to work on these important issues together.

Enbridge also believes that the time is right to build for the future. This tunnel project would make a safe pipeline even safer and reflects Enbridge’s steadfast commitment to protecting the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.

But new Attorney General Dana Nessel is urging the company to not move forward with any plans relating to Line 5 that rely on the legislation in question.

“Let me remind those who stand to benefit from this Act: take heed that this request raises serious legal concerns. In no way should any entity rely on this Act to move forward unless and until these matters have been resolved,” Nessel, said.

There’s no timeline for when the AG will release her opinion, but she says it’s one of her office’s top priorities.