EGLE delays decision on Line 5 tunnel permit


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The state will be taking a little longer than expected to review the proposed tunnel project to house the Line 5 twin oil pipelines below the Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5 has operated in open water between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas for more than 60 years. However, politicians and environmental groups are concerned that the pipelines are vulnerable to damage from passing ships and support problems caused by a shifting lake bed. They worry that a failure in Line 5 could lead to a catastrophic oil spill on the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company that owns Line 5, insists that it is safe. However, it has proposed a tunnel project through the bedrock below the water to house the pipelines. The company says this would make Line 5 even safer, though critics disagree.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is reviewing the permit applications to build the tunnel and relocate the pipelines. EGLE previously expected to have a decision ready early this month, but now Enbridge has agreed to extend that deadline into January so the department can consider the large volume of public comments and information.

Separately, Enbridge is also seeking permission from the Michigan Public Service Commission to relocate that portion of Line 5 into the proposed tunnel. That ruling is expected next summer.

Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer informed Enbridge that the 1953 easement that allows Line 5 to operate is being revoked and terminated, which would shut down the pipelines permanently. Enbridge has filed a lawsuit to block that action.

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