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Michigan court rules Enbridge Line 5 tunnel project constitutional

November 21, 2019 By    

Enbridge Inc. gained a Line 5 legal victory in its attempt to establish the constitutional validity and enforceability of agreements that it signed in 2017 and 2018 with the state of Michigan, under its previous administration. The agreements relate to the construction and operation of a tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac to house a replacement Line 5 pipeline.

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The Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac, connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. (Photo: JamesBrey/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Line 5 is a 66-year-old light crude oil and natural gas liquids pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac and serving as an integral source of propane supply for Michigan and the surrounding regions.

Enbridge says the state affirmed in those agreements the company’s right to continue to operate the existing Line 5 until a replacement line has been completed.

On Oct. 31, 2019, the Michigan Court of Claims issued an opinion, finding that the enabling legislation was consistent with the Michigan Constitution and the agreements were valid.

Although Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced she would appeal the ruling, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) says the latest decision constitutes a first-round victory for Enbridge and Line 5.

“I don’t know how big this will be in the bigger scheme of things, but this is certainly a great start for us,” says Derek Dalling, executive director of the Michigan Propane Gas Association.

Nessel had filed suit against Enbridge in June in Ingham County Circuit Court seeking an order to decommission Line 5. She argues that the continued operation of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac violates the public trust doctrine, is a common law public nuisance and violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act because it is likely to cause pollution impairment and destruction of water and other natural resources. Nessel has received the backing of attorneys general from Minnesota, Wisconsin and California.

The suit by the attorney general against Enbridge is likely to be decided at the beginning of 2020, NPGA says.

Nessel and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January after each had campaigned on a platform to shut down Line 5.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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