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Debt ceiling law raises questions on timeline of Line 5 tunnel review

 Current (2023) environmental review process for the Great Lakes Tunnel Project
Army Corps of Engineers
Current (2023) environmental review process for the Great Lakes Tunnel Project

The debt ceiling deal sets a hard deadline - just two years - on federal environmental reviews of infrastructure projects.

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) met today and questioned what the new law means for the permitting process of Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 tunnel.

The US Army Corps of Engineers announced in March it was extending the environmental review for the tunnel to allow for a more “thorough analysis.”

The extension added an extra year-and-a-half to the review process, pushing the final permitting decision into 2026. But under the new law, the timeline could be changed again - only this time, shortening it.

Paul Novak is the MSCA chair and raised the question of a potentially expedited timeline to the MSCA and Enbridge.

“If you guys just want to wave off and say, 'it’s been 48 hours [since the law was implemented], we haven’t had a chance to figure it out yet,' that’s fine," Novak said. "I see heads nodding, it might be a little too soon to give a legal analysis. Let me identify that as an item of future discussion.”

Andy Doctoroff, MSCA member, said the group needs to know – as soon as possible – if the law will shorten the Corps’ timeline.

“The implications of the answer are quite significant on the timing of this project and the ability to protect the interests of the lakes in the state,” Doctoroff said.

The Army Corps was not at the meeting, and told WCMU they’d follow up.

MSCA members also discussed their oversight role, heard industry opportunities for fiber optic cables in the tunnel, and asked Enbridge for a more detailed analysis of risks associated with the tunnel.

For a full recording of the meeting, visit MDOT's YouTube channel.

Copyright 2023 WCMU. To see more, visit WCMU.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America corps member based in northern Michigan for WCMU.