Michigan Governor Drops Plan on Line 5 Tunnel Oversight

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday abandoned his proposal to have the state’s Mackinac Bridge Authority oversee the construction and operation of a tunnel to house a replacement for the Line 5 oil pipeline in the Great Lakes, noting that the proposal did not have enough legislative support.

The outgoing Republican governor said he supports the creation of a new state authority to handle the functions instead. His move came days after the Senate put on hold a bill that would have tasked the seven-member bridge authority with the additional responsibilities in the Straits of Mackinac, the convergence between Lakes Huron and Michigan.

The target in all of this hasn’t been the oversight decision but rather doing all we can to protect the Straits of Mackinac and the Great Lakes while ensuring energy stability for Michigan,” said Snyder’s spokesman Ari Adler.

Snyder and his team are working on several fronts to finalize an agreement with Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge to replace the underwater segment of its Line 5, which carries about 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, traversing large sections of northern Michigan. A more than 4-mile-long (6.4-km) section, divided into two pipes, lies on the floor of the churning Straits of Mackinac.

Environmentalists, native tribes, tourism-related businesses and other critics say the twin pipelines, which were laid in 1953, are ripe for a spill that could inflict catastrophic damage on the lakes and region’s economy.

Key members of the Republican-led Legislature support the tunnel that would be leased to Enbridge and potentially other users such as electric cable companies. But they said Monday they oppose involving the bridge authority in the project that is projected to take seven to 10 years and cost Enbridge $350 million to $500 million.

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