Michigan tribes challenge state regulators’ Line 5 tunnel project permit ⋆

Four tribal nations filed a notice on Friday that they will appeal the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) decision earlier this month to approve a permitting proposal for Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel project. 

The Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi have strongly opposed the project, alongside multiple businesses and environmental groups. 

Report: Market could adapt to Line 5 shutdown without shortages or price increases

According to a statement from EarthJustice, one of the organizations representing the Bay Mills Indian Community, opening briefs will be submitted to the Public Service Commission in early 2024. 

Line 5 stretches from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ontario, including two pipelines located on the lakebed of the Strait of Mackinac. It transports up to 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids per day.

The tunnel project was proposed in response to safety concerns with the pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac and would relocate the pipelines into a concrete lined tunnel embedded in the bedrock below the lake. 

While the project has also received approval from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), that decision has also been challenged by the Bay Mills Indian Community. 

Enbridge must also receive approval from the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers, which announced earlier this year that it would be delaying a key step in its review of the project. 

“The MPSC made a bad decision, plain and simple. Although we fought to be heard, they put on their blinders and chose to ignore the critical perspective of Tribal Nations throughout the Great Lakes,” Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle said in a statement. “Indigenous communities have not once been consulted since 1953 when this pipeline was first constructed. Let me be clear: Line 5 remains a threat to not only the tribes, but anyone and everyone who utilizes the Great Lakes. The question is not if the pipeline will leak; it is when.”

“Studies show that Line 5 could be decommissioned with almost no impact on jobs, gas prices, or fuel supply. Yet the MPSC did not even pause to ask if we still need this pipeline. Instead, they approved a permit to extend the life of Line 5 for another century,” Gravelle said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission takes public comments following its vote to approve a permit for Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel project. | Kyle Davidson

However, Ryan Duffy, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said the MPSC’s decision is a major step forward for the project.

“With the MPSC’s decision, the Michigan agencies involved in the permitting process have given the go ahead for this critical project. We recognize the tremendous investment of time and deliberation by the MPSC and staff leading to this decision. The MPSC carefully examined this complex issue and considered many viewpoints, questions, concerns, and ideas,” Duffy said in an emailed statement. 

“Ultimately, the MPSC agreed with its staff’s conclusions that Line 5 transports critically needed energy for Michigan and the region and placing the Line 5 pipeline in the Great Lakes Tunnel better protects the Great Lakes,” Duffy said. 

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authored by Kyle Davidson
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F12%2F22%2Fmichigan-tribes-challenge-state-regulators-line-5-tunnel-project-permit%2F

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