Since 1953, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline has delivered energy sources Michigan needs. That vital source of energy faced increased jeopardy last fall, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge stop the operation of Line 5 by this May. It’s not too late for Gov. Whitmer to reverse the order with an understanding that the pipeline will soon be out of the water into an underground tunnel.
Today, the Line 5 pipeline can transport as much as 540,000 barrels daily of crude oil and natural gas through the Straits of Mackinac. But the Whitmer administration cited “persistent and incurable” easement violations and argued the pipeline has “structural problems,” including damage sustained from recent anchor strikes.
That’s why the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy approval of Enbridge’s application to build the Great Lakes Tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac makes sense. If leaving the current pipeline in the water presents unacceptable environmental risks, the commonsense alternative is building the tunnel. The proposed tunnel construction comes with minimal environmental impacts and construction and operation will not disturb the lake bottom or affect any aquatic wildlife and sediment.
Why preserve Line 5? For starters, Michigan desperately needs propane. We have the nation’s highest rate of residential propane consumption, with more than 320,000 homes heated using propane. For example, 65 percent of homes in the Upper Peninsula get their propane from the energy transported on Line 5. Fuels brought by the pipeline are refined into the gasoline, diesel fuels and propane we all need and are used to make vehicles and tires for Michigan’s renowned auto industry.
Not only does Line 5 bring the energy we need, but it also brings jobs, taxes and environmental benefits. Line 5 is critical to Michigan’s economy, transporting much of the oil produced by Michigan’s own oil producers to refineries, supporting hundreds of small Michigan businesses and supporting tens of thousands of oil producer jobs. We need improved infrastructure to meet our needs and the Great Lakes Tunnel can preserve Line 5 while providing jobs and economic opportunities.
The pipeline brings tax revenue, too. In 2018, Line 5 delivered $60.4 million in property tax revenue to Michigan. In fact, jobs and tax revenues attributed to Line 5 are a significant part of helping Michigan’s economy and local governments, strengthening schools, transportation, community projects and other services.
Our environment also benefits, with the natural gas delivered by Line 5 helping Michigan cut CO2 emissions by over 25 percent between 2007 and 2017 as we transitioned from coal to natural gas. Michigan’s state and local parks, waterways, trails and nature preserves throughout all 83 counties also benefitted from over $1 billion delivered to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund from Michigan’s oil and gas industry since 1976.
Luckily, Enbridge challenged Gov. Whitmer’s order. As the tunnel is being constructed, this vital supply of energy can’t be realistically taken offline. It’s also the safest solution, since pipelines are the safest way to transport large volumes of liquids as opposed to the alternatives of truck or rail.
Critical energy supplies. Jobs. Tax revenue. Environmental benefits. Safety. Line 5 delivers all of that for Michigan and only stands to improve.
About the author: Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services. He serves residents of the 35th Senate District, which includes Benzie, Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford counties.