UPDATE: Dec. 18, 2018: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has reached a deal with Enbridge for the Line 5 pipeline tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac, and the state has released several documents outlining the terms.
As part of the agreement, the state and Enbridge will negotiate a public-private partnership with the Mackinac Bridge Authority in which the authority will provide the property for the tunnel. Enbridge will pay for design and construction of the tunnel and pipeline. The agreements also memorialize previously disclosed terms, such as the conditions — e.g. bad weather -- under which the pipeline is to be shut down and emergency response details.
Following the Senate’s lead, the Michigan House also approved the creation of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, and Snyder signed it into law Dec. 12.
- The Michigan Senate has approved the creation of the Mackinac Straights Corridor Authority, a three-person panel that will oversee the construction and operation of a $350 million to $500 million pipeline and utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. The bill has moved on to the state House for consideration.
- The utility tunnel will encase Canadian energy transportation company Enbridge’s 4-mile Line 5 pipeline. The panel’s creation, according to Crain’s Detroit Business, is a necessary step toward sealing a deal with Enbridge for the replacement of the underwater pipeline, which helps transport 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas per day. Proponents say the tunnel, which could also eventually hold other lines for services like broadband and electrical, is the best way to protect the Straits. Enbridge has promised to provide safeguards such as 15-minute emergency shutdown capability, a new radar system that can provide real-time data on wave height and a set-aside of $1.8 billion for emergency spill response.
- The project would take seven to 10 years to complete but has seen pushback from environmentalists and others who have accused Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder of trying to push the Enbridge deal through before he leaves office in January. The Mackinac Bridge Authority will own the privately financed tunnel and lease it to Enbridge.
U.S. courts and authorities like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have given extra attention to pipeline permitting and environmental issues in the past year, mostly because of lawsuits brought by advocacy groups.
Last month, a federal judge stopped construction on TransCanada's $9 billion to $10 billion Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL Pipeline after the Indigenous Environmental Network and other groups filed a legal challenge claiming that TransCanada had not fully considered the potential cultural and environmental impacts.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris vacated the record of decision for the project and ordered the energy company to prepare a supplement to its environmental review and to include a "full and fair discussion" of the project’s potential effects, both direct and indirect. On Friday, Morris ruled that TransCanada can continue surveying, planning and maintaining security but must hold off on digging and other preconstruction field work until the government's environmental review is completed.
And earlier this year, FERC temporarily stopped construction on the $4.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline and the $7 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline because of permitting and right-of-way issues.
While Mountain Valley developers addressed deficiencies and were allowed to continue construction after a matter of weeks, Atlantic Coast developer Dominion Energy filed notice with FERC on Friday to suspend construction along the entire 600-mile route, Staunton News Leader and others reported. This follows the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit's decision to place a stay on a revised permit for a 100-mile stretch of the project in West Virginia and Virginia, which would have allowed Dominion to construct the pipeline in habitats that environmental groups say are critical for threatened or endangered species. The stay halts all legal processes concerning pipeline construction in the region.