Updated, 3:29 p.m. 7/11/19 with comments from Nessel’s office
A half-dozen Democratic state House members have signed on to a statement taking to task the attorney general from their party over filing a lawsuit to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5.
The letter was signed by state Reps. Brian Elder (D-Bay City), Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods), Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette), Wendell Byrd (D-Detroit), John Chirkun (D-Roseville) and Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon).
All of them voted for Senate Bill 1197, which GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder signed and became Public Act 359 of 2018. That created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) to oversee a new tunnel encasing the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac.
Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a legal opinion this year that the law is unconstitutional, which disbanded the MSCA. Enbridge has filed a lawsuit challenging her opinion.
The lawmakers said they are “deeply disappointed” in Nessel’s separate suit to shutter Line 5 “with no alternative, after the issue had been resolved through an appropriate compromise.” The statement said the new tunnel reduces “the risk of a spill in the Straits to zero.”
However, several environmental groups disagree. Sean McBrearty, a spokesman for an environmental coalition opposed to Line 5, Oil and Water Don’t Mix, said in a statement in May, “The only way to protect the Great Lakes from a massive oil spill is to decommission Line 5 immediately.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the court to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit and ordered the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to evaluate whether Enbridge has been in compliance with the 1953 state agreement that allows Line 5 to operate.
The Democratic legislators argue that Nessel’s lawsuit “actually guarantees the status quo” by creating a “lengthy, expensive legal battle that could take a decade or more to decide, all the while leaving an aging pipeline lying on the bed of the Straits of Mackinac.
“Our natural resources and our economy are too important to await the outcome of protracted litigation,” they write. “We need to start the Line 5 Tunnel now.”
The Democrats added that Line 5 is critical for transportation fuels, consumer goods and home heating energy, something echoed by Republican senators last month.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) and Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) last month also slammed Nessel in a statement to Whitmer, saying she was putting “at risk thousands of jobs that are directly related to the line, and thousands more that would be created by the tunnel project.”
Nessel made decommissioning the oil pipeline a central promise of her 2018 campaign. Spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said in a statement on Thursday that the AG’s team “is moving forward with its legal efforts to decommission Line 5. We have an obligation and a responsibility to preserve and protect our Great Lakes basin and Line 5’s continued presence is a looming threat to all of us.”*
Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in a statement Thursday that the governor “welcomes and has received outreach on all sides of this important matter. She is committed to a solution that protects the Great Lakes, removes the pipelines from the Straits as soon as possible and provides for the Upper Peninsula’s energy needs.”