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Editorial: Killing Line 5 is bad for Michigan


The Detroit News  |  The Detroit News

The best way to protect the Great Lakes is to move with urgency to build a tunnel deep beneath the Straits of Mackinac to carry vital petroleum products from Canada to Michigan and the Midwest.

Instead, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to fight plans by Enbridge Inc., operator of Line 5, to build a safer method of transporting oil and gas.

Last week the governor announced plans to end Enbridge's 67-year-old easement across the Straits.

At risk is not only the continuation of reliable energy supplies, but also the $500 million tunnel project that would bring hundreds of high-paying jobs to a region of the state starved for employment.

Efforts to suspend the easement will tangle the state of Michigan in a lengthy and expensive lawsuit it has no certainty of winning. Enbridge has met the terms of its right of way. The Line 5 pipeline has never had a spill in the Straits in its nearly seven decades of operation.

More: Whitmer moves to shut down Enbridge's Line 5

In addition, the company negotiated an agreement with the state under former Gov. Rick Snyder to build the tunnel to encase the pipeline, bringing the risk of a damaging spill to near zero.

Whitmer is refusing to honor that deal, even though it answers the environmental concerns.

The concrete tunnel would lie 100 feet below the lakebed. State-of-the-art technology would assure any leaks that should occur would never reach the water.

In our view, opposition to the tunnel is based less on concerns about a spill and more on an objection by renewable energy advocates to the use of fossil fuels.

Line 5 is a vital piece of infrastructure. It moves two-thirds of the propane used in the Upper Peninsula for heating homes. It also provides crude oil for the refineries in southern Michigan and northern Ohio, which supply gasoline, diesel and airline fuel throughout the Midwest.

Those products are going to move regardless of the fate of Line 5. Transporting them by tanker trucks or rail cars would increase the likelihood of a damaging spill.  

Canadian and Ohio officials are protesting the governor's threat, saying the pipeline is vital to their economies. 

In addition, repealing the right of way sends the wrong message to those looking to invest in Michigan, that the state can't be trusted to keep its bargains.

Line 5 in its current form could disappear from the lakes as soon as 2024 if Whitmer would honor the deal the state made with Enbridge build the tunnel. 

Continuing to fight this sensible solution prolongs the timeframe and increases the risk to the Great Lakes.