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Environmental groups say "no" to potential Line 5 tunnel

Enbridge Energy

Several environmental groups are stepping up their efforts against an expected plan to build a tunnel for an oil pipeline that passes through the Mackinac Straits.

A spokesman for Governor Rick Snyder says the state is still “reviewing studies and working through all possible options” for what to do withLine 5.

But environmentalists believe the governor has already decided.

“In the waning days of his administration, Gov. Snyder is trying to fast track approvals for Enbridge to build an oil pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac,” says Sean McBrearty with the group Clean Water Action.

“Building a tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac would not only be unnecessary, and take too long to complete, it would also come with a significant risk of explosion,” says McBrearty. “If electrical utility lines run through the tunnel as well, everything needed to create a massive explosion under the Straits would be present.”

Environmental groups expect the governor will announce the tunnel plan soon.

Officials with Enbridge (one of Michigan Radio's many corporate sponsors) say it will take five to seven years to build, and they say it'll cost upwards of a half billion dollars. The company maintains that building a tunnel is one option being considered.

“Our focus is and has always been the safe and reliable delivery of energy for Michigan. Line 5 is a vital part of Michigan’s energy infrastructure, having safely delivered energy for more than six decades. Improvements we have already made through our rigorous inspection and maintenance programs, along with ongoing discussions with the state, will make a safe pipeline even safer,” says Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy. 

Concerns about the aging pipeline have led to calls to shut it down. The fear is the pipeline will break and spew oil into the fragile Great Lakes ecosystem.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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