New Enbridge tunnel process off to rocky start

By: - December 18, 2018 10:15 pm

Mackinac Bridge | Susan J. Demas

Today is the last day for the public to submit written comments on a new tunnel housing Enbridge’s Line 5 under the bedrock of the Straits of Mackinac. That’s less than a week after Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that would shore up the pipeline opposed by environmental groups.

You can read the proposed agreement here.

The new law created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) overseeing the tunnel. The new panel — which has undergone significant upheaval in membership since its creation — will meet for the first time on Wednesday in St. Ignace.

The MSCA is required by law to reach an agreement with Enbridge by the end of the year.

Those who can’t make it above the Mackinac Bridge for the meeting can view it here. However, those who can’t be there in person will not be able to participate in the public comment portion of the proceedings.

National Wildlife Federation

Sean McBrearty, coordinator of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition, said that the new law is “riddled with constitutional conflicts and legal errors because it was hurriedly written.

“Wednesday’s meeting of the so-called Mackinac Straits Corridor authority is a sham. It wastes the public’s money and time and should be delayed until a new governor and attorney general, with the support of the public and free of entanglements with Enbridge, take office in just days,” he added.

Gov.-Elect Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel, both Democrats, have called for Line 5 to be shut down. The pipeline, which is owned by the Canadian company Enbridge, has spilled at least 1.1 million gallons of oil in past 50 years, MLive reported in 2017.

In less than a week, two of Snyder’s first three appointees to the MSCA have resigned. Initially, the board had a 2-1 Democratic majority. It has since flipped to 2-1 in favor of Republicans.

Last week, Democrat Geno Alessandrini of the Michigan Laborers District Council was the first to resign, citing personal reasons. He was replaced with Republican James Richardson.

Rick Snyder

Mike Zimmer, the governor’s cabinet director, resigned on Monday from the authority. He was replaced by Michael Nystrom, a Republican and executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).

Zimmer resigned due to a possible legal conflict between his resignation from the Mackinac Bridge Authority and his appointment to the MSCA, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said in a statement.

But the governor did not consider party affiliation when making appointments, Adler said.

“Building the tunnel and protecting the Great Lakes by finally shutting down the existing Line 5 is not a partisan issue,” Adler said. “Gov. Snyder did not take political affiliation into account when making any of the appointments, other than to ensure the law was followed, which says no more than two members can be from the same party.”

Each member of the authority will serve a six-year term expiring in December 2024.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.