Army Corps hears arguments for, against Line 5 tunnel permit

Dec 8, 2020 at 9:41 am

A dozen organizations are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject plans to construct an oil-pipeline tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. An online hearing was held Monday on Enbridge's permit application for the tunnel, which would replace the existing Line 5 pipelines.

This comes as Enbridge challenges the legality of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recent decision to revoke its operational agreement for Line 5. Liz Kirkwood, executive director at For the Love of Water, a law and policy center, said this is the moment for Michigan to become a leader in protecting its most precious resource - the Great Lakes.

"We, for the first time, are witnessing our state leaders defending our waters over private interests," Kirkwood said. "It's a defining moment for citizens and indigenous peoples of this state and of this region."

Those opposing the construction question the safety of the tunnel project, noting its potential impacts on drinking water, fishing, treaty rights and the environment. The Army Corps is accepting written public comments on the Line 5 permit application through December 17.

Last week, Enbridge asked a U.S. District Judge for a 30-day delay of a December 15 court deadline to argue its case against the governor's order to shut down Line 5 by May. A spokesman said the company is defending its right to operate the pipeline.

Kirkwood countered that each day that passes puts the Great Lakes at risk of disaster.

"It's a race against time. And delay is a tactic that favors Enridge, because it gets to continue its ongoing operation," she said. "This is a very lucrative pipeline, but delay is extremely dangerous for the Great Lakes and its health."

As for the tunnel, the Army Corps must decide whether the permit application should be subjected to a full federal review that could include looking at other alternatives, including existing oil pipelines within the company's system.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.