FLOW is urging supporters to contact your Michigan lawmakers today using our template message as a starting point, and to join FLOW and the other leaders of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign who are hosting a Line 5 lawmaker lobby day for Tuesday, November 27, in Lansing, to fight for the Great Lakes and the Mackinac Bridge by opposing Governor Snyder’s Enbridge oil tunnel scheme and shutting down Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits.
Use our updated Line 5 oil tunnel fact sheet to get informed and share with your lawmakers and others who can help stand up for the Great Lakes and the Mighty Mac.
In coordination with the Snyder administration, departing State Sen. Tom Casperson, a Republican from Escanaba, on November 8 introduced Senate Bill 1197 to amend the Mackinac Bridge Authority Act to allow it to own and operate a “utility tunnel,” with the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline as the intended occupant. There’s also the uncertain prospect of adding gas or electric lines, which could rent space in the tunnel by paying Enbridge, not the bridge authority that is proposed to own it.
The Michigan Senate could quickly approve the bill in the lame duck session after Thanksgiving, and send it to the House. Gov. Snyder is seeking to sign and tie the hands of the incoming administration of Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel, who both campaigned for shutting down Line 5, not replacing it with a tunnel. Gov. Snyder also released a draft of a third oil tunnel agreement with Enbridge, which Senate Bill 1197 seeks to enact.
Click here for FLOW’s summary of recent action at the November 8 meeting of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Stay tuned to the FLOW website for deeper analysis of Senate Bill 1197 and the third oil tunnel agreement, and more steps that citizens, communities, and businesses can take to protect the Great Lakes and the Mighty Mac.
Protect our greatest treasures — the Great Lakes and the Mackinac Bridge. Stop Gov. Rick Snyder’s rush to lock in a 99-year deal for a private oil tunnel in the Mackinac Straits. Never stop fighting for clean water and democracy.
Those were the messages loud and clear from a big crowd of residents, business owners, tribal leaders, environmental and social justice groups, and many others who spoke out Thursday in St. Ignace in favor of protecting the Great Lakes and Pure Michigan economy and against rushing to make the Mackinac Bridge Authority the owner of an oil tunnel for at least 99 years.
Snyder administration officials pushed their deal with Enbridge to keep the decaying Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac running at least through 2028 while exploring a possible tunnel. The authority board — recently packed by Snyder with pro-tunnel appointees — asked few questions.
But the public had many pointed questions for the Mackinac Bridge Authority. What’s the rush on a decision with century-long consequences? Why partner with deceptive and spill-prone Enbridge? Why try to exempt Enbridge from laws protecting our public health, private property, land, and water? Why give away our public lands and waters to benefit a private foreign corporation? Why ignore tribal treaty rights in the Straits that pre-date the state of Michigan?
The questions kept coming as nearly 40 people took turns. Why lock in this Great Lakes shortcut for Canadian oil for another century when our changing climate demands clean energy solutions in the immediate future? How will our tourist-based businesses survive a Great Lakes oil spill catastrophe? Why politicize and dilute the single-purpose mission of the authority to operate and protect the Mackinac Bridge? Why tie the hands of the incoming governor and attorney general, who campaigned on shutting down Line 5 before it blows?
Immediate past chair of the Mackinac Bridge Authority Bill Gnodtke drew a standing ovation after questioning the lack of transparency and attempt to weaken the single-purpose mission of the authority board. He submitted a letter from himself and seven other former members of the authority board with a collective 88 years of service to the Mackinac Bridge. The letter notes that the endorsers, including Mackinac Island Grand Hotel owner Dan Musser III, were appointed under Democratic and Republican Governors Blanchard, Engler, Granholm, and Snyder.
The only voice in support of the oil tunnel deal came from a woman identifying herself as an Enbridge employee, although it appeared that dozens of Enbridge employees arrived in company trucks, and sat silently in rows of seats, wearing pro-tunnel buttons on their shirts.
The authority board had no answers, then left without discussion or voting. The board set its next meeting for Feb. 12-13 in Lansing, but retains the option to schedule an ad hoc meeting before year’s end to further consider or approve the bridge-tunnel scheme.
Shortly after the meeting and in coordination with the Snyder administration, departing State Sen. Tom Casperson, a Republican from Escanaba, introduced Senate Bill 1197 to amend the Mackinac Bridge Authority Act to allow it to own and operate a “utility tunnel,” with the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline as the intended occupant. There’s also the uncertain prospect of adding gas or electric lines, which could rent space in the tunnel by paying Enbridge, not the bridge authority that is proposed to own it. The Michigan Senate could quickly approve the bill in the lame duck session after Thanksgiving, and send it to the house. Gov. Snyder is seeking to sign and tie the hands of the incoming administration of Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, who both campaigned for shutting down Line 5, not replacing it with a tunnel. Gov. Snyder also released a draft of a third oil tunnel agreement with Enbridge, which Senate Bill 1197 seeks to enact.
FLOW and other leaders of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign are planning a Line 5 lawmaker education day for November 27 to fight for the Great Lakes and the Mackinac Bridge. Stay tuned to the FLOW website for deeper analysis of Senate Bill 1197 and the third oil tunnel agreement, and steps that citizens, communities, and businesses can take to protect the Great Lakes and the Mighty Mac.
FLOW’s Jim Olson speaks about Line 5, a proposed private oil tunnel, and the law on behalf of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign at the November 8, 2018 meeting of the Mackinac Bridge Authority.
Liz Kirkwood speaks at the November 8, 2018 Mackinac Bridge Authority Meeting on risk and due diligence
Watch Jim Olson’s presentation to the Board at 0:17:12
Kelly Thayer at 1:28:54
Liz Kirkwood at 1:33:15
Bill Gnodtke at 2:26:45
- Coverage by TV 7&4 news includes a recording of the Mackinac Bridge Authority’s full Line 5 oil tunnel discussion: https://upnorthlive.com/news/
local/bridge-authority-hears- details-public-opinion-of- proposed-line-5-tunnel-during- meeting
- Links to presentations by officials working for the Snyder administration on the proposed oil tunnel, the governor’s letter to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, and the governor’s draft third tunnel agreement with Enbridge: https://
STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2018
Gov. Snyder’s “Line 5” Oil Tunnel Increases Risk of Great Lakes Oil Spill
Statement on Gov. Rick Snyder’s announcement today by Jim Olson, president of FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City
Make no mistake, Gov. Rick Snyder’s oil tunnel proposal announced today increases the likelihood of an oil spill disaster in the Straits of Mackinac, the very heart of the Great Lakes.
The Governor’s proposed tunnel, to be completed in 7 to 10 years, means Enbridge will continue to pump 23 million gallons of oil a day through an extremely risky Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac—just one more anchor strike or failure of the decaying pipelines from an oil spill catastrophe.
The tunnel does absolutely nothing to address the current, unacceptably high risk and estimated $2 billion to $6 billion in damages to the Great Lakes, the shoreline communities, tourism and businesses, and property owners. The suggestion that the tunnel offers a real solution, or that electrical and fiber optic cables could be added to the tunnel for public benefit, is simply a ploy meant to sweeten bitter taste for Michiganders.
The governor is explicitly seeking to bypass public and environmental reviews, and bind the next administration. It’s ironic given that building the Mackinac Bridge united Michigan’s people and peninsulas, while the oil tunnel would benefit only a private Canadian corporation.
After four years of studies, Gov. Snyder’s proposal promises clear winners and losers. Enbridge wins, with the assurance of billions more dollars in profit for decades to come, while the Great Lakes and Michigan taxpayers lose, saddled with an oil tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that would lock in decades of crude oil transport of Canadian oil back to Canada along the entire length of an aged, high-risk Line 5.
Gov. Snyder’s tunnel vision also is a proposed subordination and unnecessary risk of the public trust resources of Michigan—the Great Lakes and bottomlands—and a giveaway of taxpayer funds in this public-private agreement and Michigan’s economic security to a private Canadian company. In his final months in office, the governor must not forget his solemn, legal duty to serve the paramount public interests of Michiganders and protect the Great Lakes.
The governor’s tunnel deal is a reward for Enbridge’s gross negligence that caused the million-gallon oil spill into the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010, triggering more than a billion dollars in damage and cleanup. Experts commissioned by FLOW estimate at least $6 billion in environmental and economic damage from a Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
The only real solution now is to apply the law and shut down the 65-year-old Line 5 pipelines permanently to protect the Straits, and nearly 400 other water crossings in Michigan, from the next Enbridge oil spill. The Canadian oil, which Enbridge does not own, can be sent through other pipelines operated by Enbridge and its competitors. Michigan has no obligation to guarantee Enbridge a shortcut to Ontario oil refineries and the overseas export market.
The public should keep a watchful eye on the legislature for attempts to facilitate the governor’s scheme, particularly during the lame duck session after the November 6 election.
Gov. Snyder’s proposal fails to comply with the Michigan constitution and several state environmental laws, as follows:
- A tunnel owned and partially financed by the State taxpayers running through the public trust bottomlands of the Great Lakes raises serious legal issues under the constitution and laws. The Governor’s unilateral agreement skirts several permit applications that should be denied because the tunnel is primarily for Enbridge and other private companies and would impair and disturb the public trust resources of the Great Lakes, and because the Great Lakes can’t be taken or occupied when Line 5 is basically nonessential to Michigan, and there are other pipeline routes that can be adjusted to meet Enbridge’s needs.
- Snyder proposes to use the 1952 Mackinac Bridge Authority, in essence, as a shell company to assume ownership of the tunnel and shield Enbridge from the difficulty of Enbridge independently seeking government permits for the tunnel and replacement pipeline. This approach is legally impossible, because the bridge authority does not have the power to build a tunnel that has nothing to do with vehicles. The bridge authority established in 1952 or a similar approach can no longer be used to circumvent environmental, water and public trust laws tied to Michigan’s Constitution of 1963.
- The legislature should be reticent about ramming a bridge or tunnel authority into new legislation, given the serious limitations under the constitution and public trust principles that protect the Great Lakes, because the limitations imposed by public trust law and the constitution that forbid comingling of state funds and credit or use of the Great Lakes bottomlands for a private purpose cannot be repealed.
- A Canadian tunnel under the Straits would risk violating the 1836 Treaty and consent decree with Michigan Tribes protecting the Straits fishing grounds.
For more information, visit FLOW’s website at www.FLOWforWater.org.
In an end-run around the public participation process they established, Governor Rick Snyder and Enbridge, Inc., the owner and operator of Line 5, are exploring the possibility of building a $500 million tunnel to replace the stretch of 65 year-old Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.
While a tunnel, properly designed and engineered, may be able to prevent harm in the event of a pipeline breach under Lake Michigan, there are compelling reasons why a tunnel should not be built.
First, the five-mile segment of a tunnel running under the Straits of Mackinac represents less than 1 percent of Line 5’s total length of 645 miles. Long segments of this aging infrastructure run parallel to the Lake Michigan coast in the Upper Peninsula, crossing 400 rivers and streams that are tributary to Lake Michigan and numerous other water bodies. Records from the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration indicate that in the last 50 years, there have been at least 29 spills along the length of Line 5 outside of the Straits, resulting in the release of over 1 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids.
The threats to our freshwater lakes and streams will escalate over time as the other 640 miles of Line 5 age and degrade.
Second, aside from the fact that Line 5 crosses Michigan largely to serve markets outside our state, a tunnel for Line 5 is a fundamentally unsound investment – one that is unneeded, economically imprudent, and may soon be functionally obsolete.
Major new pipeline infrastructure investments assume the continued demand for transportation fuels. But our fossil fuel-based economy is in transition and will be completely transformed within the coming decades.
Recent petroleum sector forecasts by firms specializing in energy trends like Bloomberg, Navigant, and Goldman Sachs, predict that the transition to electric vehicles will accelerate quickly with a corresponding, precipitous drop in the demand for transportation fuels.
The world’s major auto manufacturers are validating these predictions. General Motors, VW, Volvo, and others are making clear that petroleum-free electric drivetrains will dominate their future manufacturing investments and that future product offerings will not use transportation fuels.
At the same time, sovereign nations are intent on extinguishing demand for petroleum. England, France, Norway, Netherlands, Slovenia, India and China have announced their intentions to ban future sales and, in some cases, the use of vehicles with internal combustion engines. Ireland has gone even further, announcing that it will divest its sovereign interest in all oil, gas and coal.
And while Enbridge boasts that it transports 63 percent of all Canadian oil to the United States, Big Oil sees the writing on the wall. Seven international oil companies – Exxon Mobil, Conoco Phillips, Statoil, Koch Industries, Marathon, Imperial Oil and Royal Dutch Shell – will not need Enbridge’s future pipeline services as they have announced that they are writing off tar sand assets in Alberta.
The confluence of these trends will result in demand for transportation fuels declining precipitously, rendering a Line 5 tunnel project a costly albatross.
Third, climate change is the elephant in the room. Continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is fundamentally at odds with the global consensus on the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The findings of our National Climate Assessment are unambiguous – decarbonization of the global economy is an imperative, entailing a “fundamental transformation of the global energy system” to one that is no longer dependent on fossil fuels. As the need to address climate change becomes more acute, new pipelines proposals will be met with the scrutiny they deserve.
Finally, we should all be able to agree that there are exceptional places and natural features that are deserving of special protections. Just as we would not allow a foreign corporation to build a tunnel under the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes should be off limits to fossil fuel infrastructure.
Our Great Lakes are a globally-unique natural resource, the largest interconnected freshwater system in the world, containing 84 percent of all surface water in North America. Recognizing that certain natural resource endowments are invaluable and irreplaceable gifts of nature, both state and federal law already prohibit all oil and gas development, even if done laterally from inland areas.
Building a tunnel to perpetuate Line 5 makes little economic or environmental sense. The decisions we make about how to use and protect our freshwater seas will ultimately be judged on whether they do or do not protect the ecological, social, cultural, and economic interests of future generations.
Simply put, our Great Lakes merit extraordinary protection, and their bottomlands must be off limits to oil and gas pipelines.