Enbridge Wins Court Backing to Build Great Lakes Pipeline Tunnel, Keep Line Running

(Reuters) —A Michigan state judge on Thursday approved an agreement between the state and Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge that would allow the company to construct a tunnel under the Great Lakes to house its Line 5 pipeline and continue to operate the pipeline during construction. 

Judge Michael Kelly ruled the law that approved a deal between Enbridge and the former Governor Rick Snyder was valid.

The agreement authorized a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet, to house the existing pipelines, rather than have to move the pipelines as opponents wanted.

“We continue to believe the tunnel is the best solution for Michigan and that Line 5 can continue to be safely operated during the period while the tunnel is being constructed. And we are committed to build it,” Enbridge said in a statement.

A portion of the line that runs under Michigan waters has long been a bone of contention between Enbridge and state officials, who argue a leak from the twin pipelines would cause catastrophic environmental damage to the Great Lakes.

The U.S. state sued Enbridge in Ingham County Circuit Court in June and asked the court to find that the company’s continued operation of the pipelines under an easement granted in 1953 violates the public trust doctrine.

Judge Kelly’s ruling will allow the company to continue to operate the pipeline during construction of the tunnel.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the state would appeal the court’s 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,” Nessel said in a statement.

The Line 5 pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac and ships 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil and propane. It is a critical part of the company’s network that delivers the bulk of Canadian crude exports to the United States and eastern Canada.

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