With almost no debate, the state Senate approved legislation that would create a three-person panel to finalize a deal between Gov. Rick Snyder and a major Canadian energy company to keep oil flowing through the Great Lakes.
The state Senate approved a bill 25-13 — with one Democrat voting in favor and three Republicans against — to create the Mackinac Utility Corridor Authority. The authority could help make sure oil and natural gas continues running through the Straits of Mackinac.
Ensuring that the Enbridge deal goes forward has been one of the GOP governor’s final priorities before he leaves office in January.
Incoming Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel, both Democrats, have vowed to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries roughly 23 million gallons of oil and liquid natural gas a day through the Straits of Mackinac.
Environmentalists and progressives have long been concerned about the risk of rupture, which could impact 400 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, according to a worst-case scenario projection from a state-ordered report.
The legislation would allow Snyder to let Enbridge go forward with its plan to keep Line 5 running, providing the company constructs and pays for a $500 million enclosure for the pipeline meant to keep leaks or ruptures from spilling into the Great Lakes.
The new authority could begin finalizing the deal by Dec. 31, if Snyder signs the pipeline authority legislation.
The plan now heads to the House for consideration.
It could allow Line 5 to continue operating, despite Whitmer’s and Nessel’s vows to decommission the pipeline, which could prolong “the risk of a disastrous oil spill in our Great Lakes,” said Lisa Wozniak in a statement, executive director at Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
“Creating a new authority to oversee the pipeline does not change the fact that our most precious natural resource will remain at risk,” she continued. “We urge lawmakers in the House to stand up for our Great Lakes and reject this 11th hour attempt to keep oil pumping in our Great Lakes.”
Newly sworn-in state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) was the lone Democrat who voted for the proposal. He suggested on the Senate floor that opposing it could lead to Upper Peninsula residents not having enough energy to stay warm for the winter.
State Sens. Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville), Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) and Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) were the only Republicans who voted against the legislation.