The Michigan Senate voted Wednesday to facilitate a deal to replace a contentious 65-year-old oil pipeline in the Great Lakes, approving legislation to empower a new authority to oversee the construction and operation of a utility tunnel that would encase the new pipeline.
The bill, approved on a 25-13 mostly party-line vote in the Republican-controlled chamber, was sent to the House for consideration next. It would create the three-member Mackinac Straight Corridor Authority to handle functions related to building the tunnel, which supporters say would better protect against a potential spill.
Outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Snyder — who would appoint the initial members of the authority — is working on several fronts to finalize an October 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-kilometer) section, divided into two pipes, lies on the floor of the churning Straits of Mackinac.
The massive engineering project is expected to take seven to 10 years to complete, at a cost of $350 million to $500 million — all of which the company would pay. Opponents of the deal say oil and liquids used to make propane should not continue flowing daily through the lines.