County commissioners in the Upper Peninsula, Grand Traverse and Cheboygan counties passed a resolution that was partially written by the Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Sen. Ed McBroom.
The resolution language supports Enbridge's proposed Line 5 tunnel. Enbridge is a Canadian energy company, and it’s fighting a legal and political battle to keep the line operating.
McBroom supports the proposed tunnel and helped with the resolution language.
“I’ll wear the big boy pants. You know, people are angry about it, fine. I believe in this. I’ve been promoting this because I believe it’s the right cause for Michigan and the Upper Peninsula,” McBroom, R-Valcun, says.“I didn’t call up Enbridge and ask them to write up something. That’s not how this went at all.”
He and other UP lawmakers fear spiked propane costs if Line 5 is shut down. McBroom also wants to show the lawmakers in Lansing there’s support in Michigan for a tunnel.
Now, close to a dozen counties and townships have adopted similar resolutions.
IPR News received emails through Freedom of Information Act requests from Dickinson, Gogebic and Grand Traverse Counties that specifically discuss Enbridge, its oil pipelines and the proposed tunnel.
When Grand Traverse County Commissioners originally put the resolution on their Aug. 7 meeting agenda, hundreds of concerned constituents emailed the commissioners, asking them to not adopt the resolution.
Most emails went unanswered, and they passed the resolution on Aug. 21 on a 4 to 3 vote after 55 people spoke against it during public comment. Two spoke in favor.
In an email from July 25, MAC’s Director of Governmental Affairs Deena Bosworth supplied Dickinson County Commissioner Joe Stevens with resolution language.
“Here is some of the language I put together. I hope this works for you. You will have to propose this amendment, I cannot,” Bosworth says in the email.
Bosworth declined an interview with IPR News.
She helped with the language for a MAC policy platform supporting Enbridge's tunnel after Dickinson County Commissioner Joe Stevens and Gogebic County Commissioner Joe Bonovets asked for MAC’s help.
Dickinson County was the first Michigan county to adopt the resolution. Dickinson County Commissioner Barbara Kramer says people in the lower peninsula don’t understand the UP’s energy needs.
“A lot of people in the Upper Peninsula, depend on propane for heat,” she says.
The resolution states that commissioners support the construction of Enbridge Energy’s $500 million tunnel.
Enbridge hopes to build and complete the controversial tunnel by 2024, but the tunnel project is currently on hold due to litigation.
Earlier this summer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit in to immediately close Line 5. Currently, Line 5 carries 540,000 barrels of oil and propane in pipelines on the lake bed of the straits of Mackinac.
The tunnel would encase the pipelines that were built in 1965, putting the oil and propane transportation under the bedrock of the lake.
Enbridge also has been a major sponsor at several MAC events, including new commissioner training late last year where newly elected commissioners learned the ins and outs of county governance.
“I was taken aback. They were the only major sponsor,” Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia says. “Halfway through the event, there was a huge screen with just Enbridge’s logo and then they had a staff member that had been apparently sent up to Gaylord in December just to spend five minutes talking to us about what a great community partner Enbridge is.”
MAC says Enbridge was not a sponsor of the new commissioner school.
Enbridge also recently was a sponsor to the MAC annual conference held in Traverse City last month.
Bonovets recorded a video prior to the annual conference, thanking Enbridge for being a sponsor.
“My name is Joe Bonovetz, and I represent the Upper Peninsula on the MAC board of directors. I’d like to take this time to thank Enbridge for sponsoring the 2019 MAC annual conference,” he says on the video.
MAC highlighted that its members did a video thanking all of its annual conference members.
Enbridge confirmed that it was making rounds at county commissioner events hosted by MAC.
“We are providing information to counties and elected officials about the line 5 operations and the tunnel projects on a regular basis, and we appreciate local governments expressing their support for the tunnel project,” says Enbridge Spokesman Ryan Duffy.