The Michigan Public Service Commission will consider the environmental impact of greenhouse gasses in its decision on the future of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5. That’s part of an order issued Wednesday.
The Public Service Commission decision is one of several administrative and legal challenges faced by Enbridge. The company wants approval for a plan to bury a replacement section of the pipeline inside a tunnel, and continue to use it to convey petroleum products beneath the Great Lakes.
Commission Chair Dan Scripps said the analysis has to look not just at the integrity of the line, but what’s flowing through it.
“As such, the commission cannot divorce a pipeline from its purpose,” he said.
The commission’s order – adopted on a 3-0 vote, applies only to the proposed project to alter the portion of Line 5 that runs within the Straits of Mackinac. Opponents want the line removed entirely from the Great Lakes, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced last fall that she's revoking Enbridge's easement for the pipeline.
Despite the controversy surrounding Line 5, there appeared to be near-universal support for the commission decision.
“Attorney General Nessel is pleased that the Public Service Commission has decided that under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, there should be a full review of the environmental impacts of the proposed tunnel project and alternatives to it before a decision is made to locate a new pipeline beneath the straits,” said Nessel Press Secretary Lynsey Mukomel.
Nessel’s office has filed legal actions to try and block the tunnel project and decommission Line 5.
Enbridge also released a statement praising the action, largely because the commission decided it cannot order a review of the entire pipeline system and its purview is limited to the section that’s located within the Straits of Mackinac.
“Enbridge will continue to work with the commission on its review of our application and towards a successful conclusion to this proceeding,” read the statement.
Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.