Refusing to dig a pipeline is burying Michigan’s economy

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is already backtracking on campaign promises to improve Michigan’s infrastructure and create jobs.

On her first day in office, she took preliminary steps to block a major infrastructure project – the upgrade of the Line 5 crude oil and natural gas pipelines that provide residents of the Upper Peninsula with fuel for heat their homes. Now Whitmer has halted work on Line 5, as she discusses the future of the project with the company behind it.

The pipelines lie at the bottom of the Strait of Mackinac. Enbridge Inc., a Canadian energy company, wants to replace the old pipelines with a single pipe buried 100 feet below the lake bed to reduce the risk of spills. The upgrade would help keep our Great Lakes clean while providing Michigan residents with energy security and more jobs. There is no legitimate reason to delay the project.

Enbridge built Line 5, which consists of two 20-inch pipelines, in 1953. With 24/7 monitoring by humans and automated sensors, regular inspections and proactive maintenance, the portion crossing the strait has never experienced a leak.

To maintain this impeccable safety record, engineers proposed decommissioning the current pipelines and replacing them with a single pipeline buried in a tunnel about 100 feet below the bottom of the strait. The lake bed and the marine life that lives there would remain intact.

The tunnel would be reinforced with a concrete liner more than a foot thick. In the extremely unlikely event of a pipeline failure, any spilled fuel would have to travel through both the tunnel and 100 feet of bedrock before it could contaminate the Great Lakes.

In other words, the critics’ warnings about oil spills and environmental disruptions are nothing but a baseless fearmongering.

In fact, blocking the construction of the new pipeline would be more likely to lead to spills. Shipping energy by pipeline is four times safer than transporting it by rail, the method that would likely replace Line 5 if it were taken out of service entirely. Transporting fuel by truck is even more risky.

More than 150,000 Michigan residents depend on the fuel provided by Line 5 every day. Make no mistake: these residents need to get their fuel somewhere. Forcing them to do so by rail or tanker would only increase costs and increase the risk of spills.

The new Line 5 would be a boon to Michigan’s economy. The $500 million project would be paid for entirely by Enbridge, not taxpayers. The company already pays more than $60 million in annual pipeline-related property taxes to the state of Michigan and nearly $8 million in wages to Michigan employees each year.

Blocking the project would vaporize all these benefits and cost hundreds of workers a good job.

With all the economic and environmental benefits a revamped Line 5 would bring, Whitmer would have to be chomping at the bit to begin construction. Instead, she plans to reject the project. For the sake of Michigan workers and consumers, let’s hope she does the right thing.

Amelia Hamilton is a Traverse City native and writes for RedState and Michigan Capitol Confidential, and is the author of the Growing Patriots children’s book series.