EGLE Extends Review Of Proposed Line 5 Tunnel Project

Dec 3, 2020

The Mackinac Bridge across the Straits. Enbridge wants to construct a tunnel just west of the bridge to house its Line 5 oil and natural gas liquids pipeline.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State regulators plan to take a little more time reviewing the permit applications for Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 tunnel project in the Straits of Mackinac.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) says it is extending its review until January 2021.

Under Michigan law, EGLE is the regulatory agency responsible for environmental permitting for the tunnel project, while the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has siting authority for pipelines that carry crude oil and petroleum products. Enbridge has sought authority from the MPSC to put a replacement segment of Line 5 into a proposed tunnel and that matter is the subject of a contested case hearing that is expected to be ruled on in the summer of 2021.

An EGLE spokesman says the agency needs more time to consider a large volume of public comments, technical information and recommendations from the State Historic Preservation Office.

An Enbridge spokesman says the company agreed to the 30-day extension.

“We support a thorough, robust regulatory process and believe all viewpoints and perspectives should be included,” says an Enbridge press release. “Enbridge remains fully committed to the Great Lakes Tunnel Project which will provide extra layers of safety and environmental protection, while creating Michigan jobs and securing the needed energy for consumers in Michigan and the region.”

The tunnel project was originally approved under former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. But Line 5’s future has been become cloudier under his successor.

Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer told Enbridge the 1953 easement that allows the company to operate in the Straits is being revoked. Enbridge has since filed a federal lawsuit to block the governor's action. 

Critics say the pipeline poses a potential threat of a massive oil spill.

Supporters contend the pipeline is an important economic and energy source for the region.

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