Photo by Barbara Brown.
Jim Olson, environmental attorney and senior legal advisor to FLOW (For Love of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, reacts to a narrow ruling released today by an administrative law judge on Enbridge’s oil tunnel proposed for the Straits of Mackinac:
“Today’s ruling by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Dennis W. Mack ignores the declining public need for oil as the U.S. and world finally reckon with the climate emergency, and it is blind to the fact that Gov. Whitmer has ordered the permanent shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline that the tunnel would contain this May.
“The State of Michigan will never reach a just and lawful decision on the proposed oil tunnel by agreeing with Enbridge to ignore critical evidence and treat a proposed oil tunnel meant to last 99 years as simply a maintenance-and-replacement project. The tunnel is a Trojan Horse designed to push billions of gallons of oil through the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes in an era of water crises hastened by climate change.
“As a permissive intervenor in the case, FLOW again plans to file an appeal with the Michigan Public Service Commission, as we did in November, along with other environmental and tribal interests.
“The Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) enacted in 1970 was created to compel agencies like the MPSC to evaluate the cumulative environmental impacts and to examine alternatives to proposed projects. In the case at hand, MEPA requires the MPSC to examine the environmental, health, and climatic risks of the proposed tunnel and Line 5 pipeline. The greenhouse gas emissions from Line 5’s oil and natural gas liquids, at more than 57 million metric tons a year, is greater than the annual yield from the combined operation on the nation’s three largest coal plants.
“The law does not keep the MPSC frozen in time such that they can ignore these paramount issues.
“The State of Michigan has a perpetual duty as trustees under the Public Trust Doctrine to prevent unacceptable harm to the Great Lakes and the public’s right to use them, which led to the Governor’s and DNR’s November 13 order and lawsuit to revoke and terminate the easement allowing Line 5 to occupy the Straits of Mackinac. The ALJ rejected the argument that the Governor’s notice and revocation of the 1953 easement is a basis to evaluate the environmental effects of Line 5 or the consumption of the oil transported on the system under MEPA.”
Background: See FLOW’s ongoing coverage of the Michigan Public Service Commission review of the Enbridge oil pipeline tunnel proposed for the Straits of Mackinac here:
- Jan. 15, 2021 – FLOW MPSC Brief on Remand January 15, 2021
- Nov. 10, 2020 — FLOW Appeals ALJ’s Decision on Proposed ‘Line 5’ Oil Tunnel – FLOW
- Oct. 28, 2020 — Line 5 Oil Tunnel in the Great Lakes: Is the Die Cast for the Next 99 Years? – FLOW
- Aug. 21, 2020 — Tribes and Environmental Groups Will Help Decide Fate of Proposed Line 5 Oil Tunnel in the Great Lakes – FLOW
- June 30, 2020 — MPSC: Proposed ‘Line 5’ Oil Tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac Must Undergo Full and Vigorous Public Review – FLOW
- May 28, 2020 – Decision Time Coming on Line 5 Oil Tunnel – FLOW. Thousands urge MPSC to bring Enbridge under rule of law to protect the Great Lakes.
- May 15, 2020 – FLOW Urges MPSC to Deny Enbridge’s Request for a Free Pass on Siting a ‘Line 5’ Oil Tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac – FLOW. Proposed project purports to be maintenance, attempts to sidestep the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and public trust law.
- FLOW’s Fact Sheet: Key Facts on Line 5 and the Proposed Oil Tunnel
Enbridge exaggerated the dependance on Line 5, and lobbied local municipality leaders with the idea that if Line 5 was shut down then that would somehow result in a sudden shut off of natural gas supply to Upper Peninsula.