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Michigan Gov. Whitmer takes quick action on Line 5 pipeline

Michigan Gov. Whitmer takes quick action on Line 5 pipeline
January 3, 2019 Gary Wilson
t a September press conference in Lansing, Dana Nessel said she would work to shut down Line 5 “as soon as possible.” Right: Sean McBrearty of the advocacy group Clean Water Action. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

Requests legal review of law passed by former Gov. Snyder and Michigan Legislature

Saying she was keeping a campaign pledge, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formally requested that Attorney General Dana Nessel conduct a legal review of the legislation that enables the existing Line 5 pipeline to be replaced by a pipeline in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

The controversial legislation was passed by the state legislature in a lame duck session and signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder.

Whitmer campaigned on decommissioning Line 5, but her official position was nuanced, acknowledging potential legal complexities but only saying she “wants the oil out of the water.”

Her request for the attorney general’s review is the first step in setting the stage for a possible legal challenge.

“Resolving any legal uncertainty regarding PA 359, the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority and action taken by the authority is necessary to assure that we can take all action necessary to protect the Great Lakes, protect our drinking water and protect Michigan jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Environmental groups who have long advocated for a shutdown of Line 5 praised Whitmer’s move.

Traverse City environmental attorney Jim Olson said Whitmer’s action was “critical in unpacking the layers of problems with the newly enacted law.”

Olson founded FLOW, a nonprofit that has advocated against the pipeline-in-a-tunnel solution.

Whitmer’s request focused on whether the Line 5 law was compliant with all administrative procedures and was aligned with the Michigan constitution. Specifically, Whitmer asked if the agency that will oversee the pipeline was grant powers not in the law.

University of Detroit Mercy environmental attorney Nick Schroeck has said that courts tend to pay close attention to proper adherence to process when hearing environmental cases.

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a Twitter post that he supports “building bridges AND tunnels, especially when it comes to transporting energy resources so hard-working Michigan families can heat their homes. Let’s keep our Peninsulas connected and uphold our constitutional legislation.”

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy in a statement called for cooperation.

“Enbridge looks forward to working with Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel to ensure critical infrastructure – like Line 5 – continues to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of the people of Michigan. We believe there is an opportunity to work on these important issues together.”

Attorney General Nessel campaigned on shutting down Line 5 and said there is legal justification for her position.

Nessel said in a statement that Whitmer was correct in bringing her concerns to the attorney general’s office and she is prepared to render an opinion, but while a priority, no timeline was provided.

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