PSC Approves Enbridge Line 5 Tunnel Permit

Enbridge Energy took a critical step toward approval to build the proposed Line 5 Tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac and the relocation of its aging pipeline, obtaining approval this afternoon from the Public Service Commission for its application for the controversial project.

In a 2-0 vote, commissioners provided the final state regulatory approval needed to proceed with the project after multiple rounds of hearings and testimony gathered from stakeholders in a process that began in April 2020. Commissioner Alessandra Carreon abstained since she joined the commission over the summer.

The PSC application approval, along with permitting approval obtained from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in 2021, leaves Enbridge still needing final approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps earlier this year pushed back its deadline for its permitting decision to 2026, which has rankled Enbridge and supporters of the project.

Enbridge signed an agreement with the state in 2018 for the proposed tunnel project to move Line 5 under the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac and has been a source of controversy ever since.

Supporters of the project have said moving the line into a tunnel well below the lakebed would be the safest option to supply critical supplies of energy. Environmental groups have called for the line to be shut down, saying a major leak could lead to catastrophic damage to the Great Lakes, wildlife and shoreline.

In its order this afternoon, the PSC determined there is a public need for the replacement section of Line 5 and the products it carries, finding that without the pipeline’s operation, suppliers would need to use higher-risk and costlier alternative fuel supply sources and transportation for Michigan customers, including those who use propane for home heating.

The body also found there is a public need to protect the ecological, natural, and cultural resources of the Great Lakes that would be helped by replacing the existing dual pipelines, now exposed to the elements and risks including ship anchor strikes on the Straits’ lakebed.

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