The state has approved permits that would allow Enbridge Energy to dig the tunnel that would house a new Line 5 pipeline. The replacement would still be used to move petroleum products on a path that runs beneath environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac.
Hugh McDiarmid of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said this decision does not address the wisdom of an oil pipeline in the Great Lakes, but technical issues with digging the tunnel that would house the pipeline.
“Wetlands disturbances, water discharge permits and various things,” he said. “These are not permits to run a fuel line through the tunnel, which is a separate issue.”
He said the approval also affirms that the existing 68-year-old tunnel that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac poses a threat to the Great Lakes.
Enbridge still needs approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers, and to fend off lawsuits backed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel.
But Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy says this is a critical milestone.
“We’re now a step closer to the start of tunnel construction,” he said.
Duffy said Enbridge would like to begin construction by the end of 2021.