MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel put a timeline on negotiations with Enbridge, the company behind the controversial pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, and the state of Michigan on Wednesday.
Nessel said during the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island to get it done or Line 5 will get shut down by the end of June. She wanted to give Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer time to negotiation a deal with Enbridge after lame-duck legislation produced the new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority that has since been deemed unconstitutional by Nessel.
“They’ve now had some time to negotiation and I am an independently elected state actor, I very much support our governor but if she’s not able to come to an agreement that is satisfactory and that Enbridge agrees to remove the pipelines, I think it is incumbent upon me to keep my campaign promise and to act and to make certain that these lines are decommissioned as quickly as possible,” Nessel said. “I feel very comfortable with my AG opinion on that and I think it will certainly hold up in court. It was rushed legislation, it was done improperly and in my view, it’s unconstitutional.”
The Corridor Authority would have overseen construction of a new tunnel, built by Enbridge, 100 feet below the lakebed in the Straits that would encompass a new tunnel to replace the 66-year-old pipeline currently at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
“It was her [Whitmer] view that if there was a way to negotiate that with Enbridge so that on their own they would come to an agreement that they would remove or decommission those lines, that would be preferential to litigation that would take years,” Nessel said. “What I’ve said that within the next month, if I don’t see a very specific agreement about those lines being decommissioned then I’m going to act in my capacity of Attorney General to move forward.”
Tiffany Brown, Whitmer’s spokesperson, confirmed the Governor’s Office “has been in discussions with the AG’s Office” about Nessel’s newly announced 30-day timeline.
“The Governor remains 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. Discussions with Enbridge and stakeholders are ongoing, and those discussions will help advise the Governor on the next steps moving forward,” Brown said in a statement.
Whitmer has publicly said she was interested in striking a deal with Enbridge to get the tunnel construction moving again after Nessel’s opinion because it would be faster than potential lengthy litigation.
Ryan Duffy, spokesperson for Enbridge, said conversations with the Whitmer Administration are ongoing and noted that some work on the tunnel is ongoing, like rock sampling near the shores of the Straits, in an attempt to keep a 5-year completion goal on track.
“Enbridge is committed to continuing to safely and reliably deliver the energy Michigan needs. That is why we are investing $500 million to construct a tunnel to house a new Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac; an option support by more than half of all Michiganders according to a recent survey commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce,” Duffy said in a statement.
Ultimately, Nessel said it’s up to her as attorney general to protect the natural resources found in Michigan and she’s going to hold firm on her deadline.
“How are we going to entice people to come here from other states with oil along hundreds and hundreds of miles of shoreline. With all due respect to Enbridge, this is a Canadian oil company. We utilize here, 5%, at very most 10% of the oil that goes through those pipelines but we take on all the risk,” Nessel said. “I’m tired of it and we can’t have a private company be more important than the natural resources and residents of our state. They don’t own us, they don’t own the natural resources in this state and I think it’s time that we had elected leaders in office that recognize that.”
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