Whitmer taps engineering executive and Snyder adviser-turned-attorney for Line 5 panel

By: - February 3, 2023 3:36 pm

Mackinac Bridge | Susan J. Demas

With a three-member state panel down to just one member in the new year after the others’ terms expired, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has appointed two new members to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority that oversees the proposed Line 5 replacement project.

Environmentalists critical of the panel’s existence writ large signaled that they are dissatisfied with the appointments, but urged transparency and accountability among the new members.

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) is a small state panel with full, independent authority to oversee Canadian pipeline company Enbridge’s tunnel project in the environmentally delicate Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge seeks to replace the aging and controversial Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits with a new, tunnel-encased pipeline.

The new appointees to the panel include Andrew Doctoroff, who will represent independents, and Kimberly Webb, representing Democrats.

Both terms commenced Thursday and will expire December 12, 2026.

“We urge Ms. Webb and Mr. Doctoroff to bring overdue transparency and accountability to this project on behalf of Michigan residents and fulfill the MSCA’s stated mission, which is to provide independent oversight,” said Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for the anti-Line 5 Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition.

Doctoroff and Webb succeed Republican Michael Nystrom and Democrat Anthony England, respectively, whose terms have expired.

Whitmer also reappointed the panel’s third member, Democrat Paul Novak of Detroit. His second term is set to expire December 12, 2026.

Doctoroff is an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School, a Detroit lawyer with his own consultancy — Andrew S. Doctoroff Consulting — and a former journalist.

He was previously a senior adviser to GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder, an equity partner with the law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn and a member of the Detroit-Wayne Port Authority.

Enbridge sign, St. Ignace | Laina G. Stebbins

Webb is a civil engineering executive who is currently the associate vice president and municipal transportation practice leader at HNTB Corporation, an infrastructure planning company. She previously had a 33-year career with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), most recently as the director of the Southeast region.

The new appointments are subject to the advice and consent of the Michigan Senate.

Environmental groups like Oil & Water Don’t Mix have been critical of the MSCA’s management of the project, and have accused members of ignoring expert testimony on possible risks during construction.

“The MSCA to date has failed terribly in its job of oversight and critical assessment of the proposed oil tunnel, allowing the myth to persist that this would protect our most precious resources, when the project is simply a diversion from the most critical step, shutting down the decrepit, dented and deteriorating pipelines,” McBrearty said.

“Several candidates stepped forward for appointment to these positions who are well-versed in the issues at play before the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority. We know these candidates would have asked the tough questions necessary to protect the Great Lakes and ensure Michigan taxpayers are not put on the hook for owning a massive, dangerous, and unnecessary project like the Great Lakes Tunnel proposal.”

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy did not comment specifically on the new members, but said the company looks forward to working with them.

“Enbridge looks forward to working with the members of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority to advance the Great Lakes Tunnel Project, which Enbridge will pay for, and which more than 70 percent of Michiganders support,” Duffy said. “Once all the permitting agencies complete their work, we are committed to starting construction within the timeframe stated in the Tunnel Agreement with the State of Michigan.”

The tunnel agreement, which created the MSCA, was negotiated with and finalized by Snyder shortly before he left office in 2018. The deal Snyder signed into law essentially tied the incoming Whitmer administration’s hands on reversing the deal.

Both Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have been attempting since then to decommission the Line 5 pipeline as it currently exists.

The MSCA, in the meantime, is authorized to oversee all aspects of the tunnel project and ensure it is completed. It will also own the new tunnel-encased pipeline once it is built.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.