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A Canadian energy company has just asked the Michigan Claims Court to allow the continuation of its multibillion-dollar pipeline project. The Michigan legislature approved the project last year, but Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer have blocked construction for months.
The project would modernize the aging Line 5 pipeline that runs through our state. The upgrade would improve line safety, boost the local economy, and provide affordable energy to residents of the state. It is time to allow this project to proceed as planned.
Today, Line 5 consists of two 20-inch pipelines that cross the Straits of Mackinac, the channel that connects Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Originally built in 1953, the pipeline transports 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas per day through Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.
Thanks to diligent inspections, state-of-the-art technology and 24/7 monitoring, Line 5 has had no leaks in the Strait in its 66 years of existence. However, to make the pipeline system safer and more modern, Enbridge proposed to replace the double pipelines with a single pipeline encased in a large concrete tunnel. The new and improved Line 5 would be 100 feet below the lake bed.
The Line 5 tunnel would fully protect against impacts from boat anchors, which currently pose the greatest threat to pipelines. And the tunnel’s environmental impact would be “negligible” and “unquantifiable low”, according to a report commissioned by the state.
In the extraordinarily unlikely event of a leak or malfunction, the oil would have to pass through the thick concrete tunnel and 100 feet of bedrock before flowing into the water. Even so, opponents of the project describe the upgrade as a threat to the environment. It’s absurd. The very purpose of the project is to save the surrounding lake bed, fish and wildlife.
In fact, killing the project would endanger the environment. Without a Line 5 upgrade, energy products will continue to flow through our state, but via more risky methods.
Pipelines are by far the safest way to transport energy, according to a report from the Fraser Institute. They safely deliver oil and natural gas 99.999% of the time. Transporting energy by train – the most common alternative – is 4.5 times more likely to result in a spill.
In addition to protecting our environment, the new 5 line would boost Michigan’s economy. The $ 500 million project would be fully funded by Enbridge; it wouldn’t cost Michigan taxpayers a dime.
Each year, Enbridge pays the state over $ 60 million in property taxes, over $ 330,000 in sales and use taxes, and nearly $ 40,000 in payroll and other taxes. It also distributes $ 8 million in salaries to Michigan employees annually.
Upgrading Line 5 would reinforce this investment. Scaling up Michigan infrastructure projects like Line 5 would add $ 49 billion to the state’s economy over the next 15 years and support an average of 20,000 Michigan jobs per year. It is no wonder that Michigan unions strongly support the project.
The new pipeline would also ensure Michigan residents have access to affordable energy. Sixty-five percent of Upper Peninsula residents and 55 percent of all Michigan residents depend on the current Line 5 for propane to heat their homes.
The more Michigan officials drop out, the longer residents have to wait for the good jobs and affordable fuel that a new and improved Line 5 would bring.
Gene Clem is a member of the Republican Party from Kalamazoo County.