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Army Corps says it won’t include entire Line 5, climate impacts in tunnel review

 The Army Corps of Engineers listens to public comment as part of the EIS scoping phase Sept. 8 in St. Ignace.
Teresa Homsi
The Army Corps of Engineers listens to public comment as part of the EIS scoping phase Sept. 8 in St. Ignace.

The USACE announced in late June what will – and won’t – be evaluated in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Enbridge's proposed Line 5 tunnel.

The EIS will inform the USACE’s decision whether to grant Enbridge the necessary permit to build the 4-mile tunnel under the lakebed in the Straits of Mackinac.

The USACE said water and cultural resources, direct environmental impacts of construction, and tunnel engineering and safety will be included in their analysis. But it said the operation of Line 5 and the risk of an oil spill is outside of their scope.

"Here, no such larger pipeline project exists, nor does the district engineer have sufficient control and responsibility over Line 5 to warrant review of the entire pipeline (page 2)," the USACE wrote in a memo, responding to specific public comments:

"We do not have the authority to regulate the operation of oil and gas pipelines, and we do not have the authority to address spills or leaks from oil and gas pipelines (page 7)."

Climate impacts from the extraction and use of the pipeline’s products will also not be reviewed. The USACE said the agency will, however, evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions from the construction and operation of the tunnel.

"Extraction, transport (outside of the Straits crossing), refining, and use are not within the scope of analysis, and we will not analyze lifecycle greenhouse gases and climate change effects for these activities (page 14)," the USACE said.

Environmental advocates say the USACE is backtracking on its commitment to a thorough and independent environmental analysis on the project.

"The Line 5 oil tunnel stands in the way of ongoing national and state commitments to fighting the climate crisis and building out 21st-century green infrastructure," said Sean McBrearty with Oil and Water Don't Mix in a statement. "Any action to extend the lifespan of this 70-year-old ticking time bomb is a fool’s errand."

Enbridge said the decision advances a timely review and construction of the tunnel, and "Line 5's need has been firmly established over the last 70 years."

To view the full USACE memo, visit the Line 5 tunnel EIS website here.

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.