​Michigan governor halts Enbridge Great Lakes oil tunnel

An underwater pipeline inspection of Enbridge Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. Image: Enbridge

Enbridge says it's “surprised and disappointed” by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's finding that a law authorizing construction of an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan is unconstitutional.

Nessel issued her opinion Thursday. Afterward, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered state agencies to take no further actions under the law that the Republican-led Legislature enacted in December.

Enbridge chief legal officer Bob Rooney says the company worked in good faith with Michigan on the tunnel project.

Republican state Rep. Triston Cole of Mancelona says the opinion is “flimsy” and that Nessel “split legal hairs.”

Environmentalists are praising Nessel and Whitmer and calling for the shutdown of Enbridge's Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

After taking position as governor in January 2019, Whitmer moved quickly with Nessel to review the legality of the deal to run an oil pipeline beneath a crucial section of the Great Lakes.

The previous Republican-led Legislature and GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder rushed to enact the law after Whitmer was elected in November. The new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority then swiftly approved the proposal to drill a tunnel through bedrock up to 100 feet (30.4 metres) below the more than 4-mile-wide (6.4 kilometre) channel that links Lakes Huron and Michigan.

A new segment of pipeline would extend through the tunnel, replacing twin pipes that have lain along the lake bed since 1953. They are part of Enbridge's Line 5, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids used in propane from Superior, Wisconsin, through northern Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.

© 2019 The Canadian Press