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Court says Line 5 tunnel plan can go forward, Whitmer to appeal

Gregory Varnum

The Michigan Court of Claims ruled on Thursday in favor of Enbridge and its plan to house the Line 5 oil pipelines in a tunnel under the straits of Mackinac.

In 2018, former Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law authorizing the Mackinac Bridge Authority to oversee the construction of a tunnel for Line 5. Earlier this year Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a suit for state agencies to stop work on it. Enbridge also filed suit and now the court knocked down Whitmer and Nessel's order.

In their case the state presented several reasons to halt construction, including that they were trying to protect the public's right to clean and navigable waters. The court found that housing Line 5 in a tunnel would still accomplish that. In a statement, Gov. Whitmer said she plans to appeal the court's decision.

"The governor is committed to protecting the Great Lakes. The administration clearly disagrees with today’s ruling, and we plan to appeal," the statement reads.

Meanhwhile Enbridge Energy said they are pleased with the Court's decision and will move forward accordingly.

"Enbridge remains fully committed to the Great Lakes Tunnel project. We continue to believe the tunnel is the best solution for Michigan and that Line 5 can continue to be safely operated during the period while the tunnel is being constructed. And we are committed to build it," Spokesman Ryan Duffy said via email.

Environmental groups are criticizing the decision.

“This ruling is scary for the Great Lakes," Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes executive director for the National Wildlife Federation said in a press release. "Whether the Court of Appeals eventually reverses this decision or not, without a timeline for shutting down the existing Line 5 any tunnel discussion is as illusory as a Halloween.”

On Twitter, Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) praised the ruling.

"This is great news for thousands of Michigan’s families & our statewide economy. With this ruling, people will have peace of mind that they are not going to be left out in the cold this winter by political gamesmanship. We need these jobs. We need this tunnel. Let's get it built," Chatfield said.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.