Regulators deny quick approval of new Great Lakes pipeline

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This June 2020 photo, shot from a television screen provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy shows damage to anchor support EP-17-1 on the east leg of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline within the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. Enbridge who provided the photos to the state of Michigan, last week said an anchor support on the east leg of the pipeline, right, had shifted. A Michigan regulatory panel refused Tuesday, June 30, 2020, to grant quick permission to run a new oil pipeline beneath a channel that connects two of the Great Lakes, deciding instead to conduct a full review. Enbridge filed an application in April with the Michigan Public Service Commission to relocate a segment of its Line 5 that extends beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which links Lakes Huron and Michigan. (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy via AP)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – A Michigan regulatory panel on Tuesday refused to grant quick permission to run a new oil pipeline beneath a channel that connects two of the Great Lakes, deciding instead to conduct a full review.

The state Public Service Commission's decision involved a proposed replacement for a segment of Enbridge's Line 5 that extends beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which links Lakes Huron and Michigan.

The Canadian energy transport company wants to replace dual pipelines that rest on the lake floor with a new pipe that would be placed in a 4-mile-long (6.4-kilometer-long) tunnel to be drilled in bedrock beneath the waterway.

Also Tuesday, a state judge heard arguments on whether to extend an order he issued June 25 to shut down the existing underwater segment after damage was discovered on a support piece at the lake bottom. Circuit Judge James Jamo promised to move quickly but made no immediate ruling.

That means Line 5 — which carries 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario — will remain closed for now.

The 645-mile-long (1,038-kilometer-long) pipeline supplies refineries in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Enbridge said halting its flow even temporarily threatens fuel supplies in those areas, while the state of Michigan and environmental groups contend a major spill would do considerably worse economic damage.

“There is a serious risk of harm ... to many communities that potentially endangers the livelihood of many people and businesses as well as the natural resources,” Robert Reichel, representing state Attorney General Dana Nessel's office, said during the online court hearing.