January 2nd, 2019
As one of her first actions in office, Governor Whitmer asked Attorney General (AG) Dana Nessel to conduct a legal review of whether the legislative approval of a proposed new Enbridge tunnel around Line 5 is in compliance with state law. The legislation in question (Public Act 359) was rushed through the legislature during an aggressively anti-environmental lame duck period. It created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority endowed with the authority to approve and oversee the implementation of a tunnel to eventually house and replace the existing pipeline. The newly created authority immediately gave its approval on Dec. 19, 2018 to the tunnel proposal agreement struck with Enbridge by Governor Snyder in an effort to tie the hands of the incoming Governor and Attorney General. Governor Whitmer’s request to AG Nessel asked important legal questions including: Does the new law violate Michigan’s Constitution? Has the Corridor Authority acted with more power than specifically enacted in PA 359? And more.
On Friday, March 29, 2019 Governor Whitmer halted state of Michigan departmental activity related to construction of the Enbridge Line 5 tunnel. This move was in response to AG Nessel’s official opinion dubbing the newly created Mackinac Corridor Authority unconstitutional and thereby retroactively unable to approve any new construction under the straits of Mackinac. Enbridge is still able to apply for a regular permit for building through Michigan’s standard permitting process, but they have yet to announce any such plans. While Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order to halt all construction on the proposed tunnel does not apply to the Line 5 pipeline itself, this is a significant step in the right direction.
The 66 year old Line 5 is years beyond it’s engineered lifetime and represents an existential threat to the Straits as well as Lake’s Michigan and Huron. It also transports oil and gas that damages the land where it is exploited and pollutes the air and water when combusted, contributing to climate change.