Judge Rules Line 5 Tunnel is Constitutional, Lawmakers React

This week, a Michigan judge ruled Enbridge’s plan to build a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac is legal.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Dana Nessel tried to shut down the tunnel plan. In March, Nessel said a lame-duck agreement between Enbridge and Governor Rick Snyder to create an authority to oversee and operate the tunnel was unconstitutional.

But this week, Judge Michael Kelly from the Court of Claims upheld the 2018 agreement. Now, Enbridge can start work on a tunnel that will hold oil pipelines in the Straits.

This ruling is a major win for the Canadian company and a huge setback for the AG. In a state news release, Nessel said she’s more ready than ever to fight Line 5.

“We will appeal this decision. The State of Michigan will not rely on a foreign corporation to protect and preserve our state’s most precious resource, its Great Lakes,” said Nessel. “We are more resolved than ever to continue this fight on behalf of the people of Michigan.”

Some lawmakers are supportive of the court ruling and the tunnel project.

“This is important for Michigan families, our economy and important for our livelihood and I am glad to see [the court] made the right decision,” said Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield. “I’m glad to see that the courts made the right decision by upholding what was bipartisan legislation passed last year.”

Nessel, and some environmental advocacy groups like For Love of Water (FLOW), believe the 60 year old pipeline is a liability.

“We cannot risk our greatest, greatest gift, and that’s the Great Lakes. That’s what this is a battle for,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW.

Kirkwood pored over a more than 120 page study, commissioned by the state, which looked into Enbridge’s financial assurances. AG Nessel and Kirkwood both believe the findings show Enbridge would not be accountable for an environmental disaster.

“What this report says, at its heart, is that Enbridge lacks sufficient insurance to clean up any kind of ecological and environmental disaster. They would not be able to pay $1.87 billion [to clean it up],” said Kirkwood. “But that liability is very low, and does not account for the enormity and magnitude of harm that could happen.”

Consumer Energy Alliance is supportive of the project because they say it will secure Michigan’s economy and future.

“The Line 5 tunnel project really is the future to make sure that Michigan’s energy needs are secure,” said Consumer Energy Alliance state director Chris Ventura.  “It doesn’t just impact propane usage in the Upper Peninsula…now we can actually put Michigander’s back to work.”

Kirkwood says a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment.

“It is deeply frustrating that there is this trope of jobs versus the environment,” said Kirkwood.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel both say they plan to appeal the ruling.