March 28th, 2019
Shortly after taking office, Attorney General Dana Nessel was asked by Governor Whitmer to conduct a legal review of whether the legislative approval of a proposed new Enbridge tunnel around Line 5 was 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 replace the existing pipeline. The newly created authority immediately gave its approval on Dec. 19 2018 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.
AG Nessel released her official opinion dubbing the newly created Mackinac Corridor Authority unconstitutional and thereby 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 new requests. While Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order to halt all construction on the proposed tunnel will not shut down 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 and Lake’s Michigan and Huron. It also transports oil and gas that environmentally damages the land where it is exploited, pollutes the air and water when it is combusted and contributes to climate change.