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Public comment on tunnel permit still on as legal battle over easement continues

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will take public comment through December 17 on Enbridge Energy's new permit application for a tunnel to encase a replacement section of Line 5, which runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

At the same time, there's a legal battle between Enbridge and the state of Michigan, after Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in November she's revoking Enbridge's easement for the pipeline.

Mike Shriberg is with the National Wildlife Foundation.

He says the pipeline threatens vulnerable waters held in the public trust.

"There's very solid ground to say that Line 5 right now is in violation of the public trust," says Shriberg. "Because there's very actual little public benefit and there's a huge public cost if there is a spill."

Shriberg notes that the easement was granted in 1953, when "our basic environment laws weren't in place, no Clean Water Act, no Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act." 

He says the same easement wouldn't be approved today, and the governor's November revocation of it could make the permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moot.

Enbridge says the governor acted unlawfully, and it's suing in federal court to reinstate the easement. The company maintains "the tunnel will make a safe pipeline even safer."

A company spokesman notes 26 counties in Michigan have passed resolutions in support of the project as well as the Michigan State House.

Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.