Michigan Governor puts brakes on Enbridge pipeline tunnel under Straits of Mackinac

Gretchen Whitmer, elected last November, had pledged to shut pipeline; latest move almost certainly will be appealed

Michigan’s newly-elected Democratic governor has issued an executive order halting work on any plans for an underwater tunnel that the state’s outgoing administration had proposed before last November’s election.

The order, which occurred last Thursday (March 28), came moments after Michigan’s Attorney General, also a Democrat, issued a legal opinion claiming that the law creating a state authority overseeing construction of the tunnel violates the state’s constitution.

While the move by Whitmer is almost certain to face a judicial appeal, the implications for Sarnia’s Chemical Valley and refineries in eastern Canada are clear: the Enbridge pipeline (known as Line 5) is the sole source of crude oil for local refineries.

A “reversal” of the flow of oil that occurred in December 2015 faced environmental protests before, during and after hearings initiated by Enbridge on behalf of its pipeline customers.

In a news article appearing in Bridge, an online publication, author Jim Malewitz quoted Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) as pushing back on the order.

“An AG [Attorney General] opinion is exactly that, an opinion,” said Shirkey. “It’s not binding. It’s not final. And it’s certainly not without cause to challenge.”

Shirkey said the State Senate “will pursue its options in order to advance the very important work and purpose of the energy tunnel,” calling the project (which Enbridge is paying for) “the fastest, safest, and most economical long-term solution for Michigan. It’s very important to our economy.”

Line 5 begins its eastern journey at the western end of Lake Superior and runs southeast to Rapid River, near Escanaba before it crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

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