Commission approves plans to replace Line 5 oil pipelines with underground tunnel

The three-member commission voted unanimously to approve a siting permit.

Protesters from the Bay Mills Indian Community rally against Line 5.

FILE - Protesters from the Bay Mills Indian Community rally against Line 5.

The tunnel for the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission on Friday.

Despite overwhelming public comment against the project, the MPSC found that the pipeline was still needed to provide oil and natural gas to the state, and that a tunnel was the safest way to transport it through the Straits of Mackinac.

The three-member commission voted unanimously to approve a siting permit.

“We are an important step closer to finally, once and for all removing the threat the pipeline poses to our Great Lakes,” MPSC Chairman Dan Scripps said.

Nichole Biber of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians cited the unprovoked rupture of an Enbridge Energy pipeline as a reason the project should not go forward.

“A 73 year old pipeline could just rupture and it wouldn’t take an anchor strike,” Biber says. “I don’t think there was an anchor strike from the Kalamazoo River. [It’s] very interesting language to say we’re disappointed. Outraged. But frankly terrified.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have both come out against the Line 5 project.

The Michigan Climate Action Network was quick to express their disappointment in today’s decision.

“This is not a surprise, but it is a disappointment,” MCAN Executive Director Dr. Denise Keele said in a statement. “The tunnel is an unnecessary and dangerous investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure. Allowing the tunnel perpetuates our dependence on oil and gas and delays the transition to renewable energy the Commission says it supports. We are saddened that the Commission had so little regard for the thousands of citizens’ comments opposing the tunnel and so little concern for the safety of the public from the disastrous climate change impacts extending the life of this pipeline will create.”

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) praised MPSC’s decision to approve the underground Line 5 tunnel.

“I applaud the MPSC for withstanding political pressure from those seeking to appease environmental groups or polish their resumes for higher office and ruling that Line 5 is a critical energy source for Michiganders,” Nesbitt said in a statement. “The bipartisan tunnel project is the best and safest way to ensure Michigan residents can fuel their cars and heat their homes for years to come.”

Enbridge has continued to send oil and gas through the pipelines despite an order to shut it down. The company will need to wait on the results of a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before starting construction.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.