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Editorial: Get Line 5 out of Lakes, into tunnel


The Detroit News  |  The Detroit News

Michigan faces a difficult road back from the economic devastation caused by the extended COVID-19 shutdowns. It should not make the task more challenging by driving up the cost of energy.

That's bound to happen if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel prevail in keeping the Line 5 petroleum pipeline out of service.

A judge, at Nessel's request, last Thursday ordered Enbridge Energy to close both legs of the dual pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac after damage was found to an anchor support on the east leg.

Enbridge initially closed both legs, but reopened the west line after an inspection and with the approval of federal regulators. 

But an Ingham County judge approved Nessel's request for a temporary injunction closing both legs. A hearing on the order is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Whitmer and Nessel campaigned on permanently removing Line 5 from the straits, and that remains their goal.

They continue to fight to undo an agreement reached between Enbridge and former Gov. Rick Snyder to bury Line 5 in a tunnel 100 feet below the lake bed. 

That $500 million project would take the risk of a petroleum spill into the lakes to virtually zero. The company would pay the full cost.

It is the ideal solution to eliminate the risk posed by the aging pipeline, and would also bring much needed jobs to northern Michigan.

Scuttling the project makes no sense from either an environmental or economic viewpoint.

Fighting to keep Line 5 closed actually increases the threat to the environment since the products will now be shipped by tanker truck or rail, both of which experience higher accident rates than pipelines.

It will also lead to possible supply disruptions of propane used for home heating in the Upper Peninsula, and higher costs for gasoline and jet fuel throughout the Midwest.

Energy costs for industry are also likely to rise. 

That would be problematic at any time, but is especially so now, with businesses already struggling to recoup losses caused by the virus shutdowns. 

The damage to the pipeline is an important reminder of the risk Line 5 presents to the Great Lakes. 

We agree the pipeline does not belong in the waters of the Straits. It belongs in a concrete tunnel deep below the lake, where it can continue to deliver much needed fuel safely to Michigan residents and businesses.