MPSC denies Enbridge Energy’s request for relief on Line 5 pipeline project

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FILE – In this June 8, 2017 file photo, fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St. Ignace as Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Mackinaw City, Mich. Enbridge Inc. applied Wednesday, April, 2020, for state and federal authorization to construct an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Michigan waterway that connects two of the Great Lakes. (Dale G Young/Detroit News via AP)/Detroit News via AP)

Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — Enbridge Energy LP’s request to have its plans to relocate the Line 5 pipeline to a tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac is a no-go after the Michigan Public Service Commission today denied Enbridge’s request for a declaratory ruling.

The Commission also established a full hearing process for the proposal. 

Background:

Enbridge in April filed an application (Case No. U-20763) requesting siting approval under Act 16 of 1929 to replace and relocate the Line 5 section in the Straits of Mackinac into a new tunnel it would build beneath the lakebed.

In the alternative, Enbridge sought a declaratory ruling from the MPSC that the company already has authority from the Commission to build the replacement segment based on the MPSC’s 1953 order that first granted permission for Line 5. The 645-mile interstate pipeline spans both Michigan peninsulas to transport light crude oil and natural gas liquids, including propane used for home heating in Michigan.  

In today’s order, the Commission found that, based on Enbridge’s application and comments received from stakeholders, the Line 5 project differs substantially from the pipeline approved in 1953, and therefore the company does not have authority for the project under the 1953 order.

Whereas the Commission approved in 1953 dual 20-inch pipelines constructed on the lakebed, Enbridge proposes replacing them with a single 30-inch pipeline housed in a concrete-lined tunnel 60-250 feet beneath the lakebed, involving a new easement and a 99-year lease of public trust property.  

The order states that Enbridge is required to file an Act 16 application, pursuant to Rule 447(1)(c) and Commission precedent, to obtain Commission approval to construct the Line 5 project through a contested case.

The Commission found that the Line 5 project involves important factual, policy and legal issues best resolved through a proceeding that includes discovery, comprehensive testimony and evidence to provide a robust record. The Commission observed that this proposal is a matter of significant public interest best addressed through a contested case.  

The Commission in April put Enbridge’s application on hold while it considered the issue of a declaratory ruling and established a public comment period during which it sought public input specifically on any legal analysis of issues pertaining to Enbridge’s request for a declaratory ruling.

A number of stakeholders filed comments opposing Enbridge’s request, including the Office of Attorney General Dana Nessel, more than a dozen Indian Tribes, a number of Michigan-based and national environmental organizations, and State Sen. Jeff Irwin.

The Commission also received thousands of comments from Michigan residents, both in support of and in opposition to the tunnel project, many discussing the merits of Line 5 rather than focusing on the legal issues surrounding Enbridge’s request for a declaratory ruling. 

Following today’s order, a notice of hearing will be issued with information on the scheduling of a prehearing conference and deadline for parties seeking to intervene in the formal contested case proceeding.    

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