Michigan Public Service Commission continues to move tunnel and pipeline relocation process forward

Illustration of an underground tunnel

Important step in granting permit

Jan. 12, 2022

Testimony that will help the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issue a permit to relocate the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline into a tunnel below the lakebed at the Straits of Mackinac will continue on Friday, Jan. 14. The hearings are a key step forward in the State energy agency’s permitting process.

Over the next couple of weeks, several environmental, safety and engineering experts will testify on the merits of relocating the pipe and building a tunnel below the confluence of Lake Michigan and Huron to safeguard the environment.

“We are making progress on the Great Lakes Tunnel Project,” said Bob Lehto, Enbridge area operations manager in northern Michigan. “The hearing is an important step to acquire a permit to relocate a segment of Line 5 within a tunnel. Our Enbridge team is eager to start construction because the Tunnel will benefit Michiganders and the region.”

Tunnel is needed

Lehto says during the livestreamed meetings, people will hear how the Tunnel is the solution for protecting the waters of the Great Lakes while keeping critical energy flowing to those who require it daily in Michigan and the larger surrounding region.

Line 5 is a dual pipeline that rests in the water on the bottom of the lakes west of the Mackinac Bridge. The pipelines carry the fuels that are the building blocks for making propane, as well as transportation fuels and more than 6,000 products. In Michigan, 55% of the State and 65% of the Upper Peninsula rely on Enbridge’s Line 5 to meet their propane demands.

Enbridge has been working on the tunnel project since it first signed the 2018 agreement with the State of Michigan to build the energy infrastructure project.

The company plans to relocate the pipeline to a concrete tunnel below the lakebed.  This will enhance 24/7 monitoring, improving safety and reducing the chance of a ship’s anchor strike and a release from the pipeline to nearly zero. To date, Enbridge has invested more than $100 million on the project.

Why the Great Lakes Tunnel matters

The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) and others predict the need for oil will continue to grow as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Enbridge widely shares its commitment to providing North America with a diverse energy mix that includes growing use of renewables, while also maintaining energy reliability and affordability through traditional energy sources used by consumers to heat their homes and businesses and keep the economy moving forward.

“The Great Lakes Tunnel Project is really a modern day, common-sense solution for Michigan,” says Lehto a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “The Project will minimize greenhouse gas emissions while delivering the energy on which people are counting. It is a true win-win situation for the state and all of its neighbors. Through the pipeline, consumers have a reliable and affordable way to receive energy, and the Great Lakes benefit from the Tunnel’s added environmental safeguards.”

MPSC staff working on reviewing Enbridge’s application strongly supports moving the Great Lakes Tunnel Project forward. One MPSC staff member said that “the replacement of the dual pipelines with a new pipeline in a tunnel below the lakebed serves a public need, is in the public interest, and is the best option.”

Lehto added: “In reviewing our application, the MPSC will be discussing the Project’s impacts on the environment.  We welcome that review, because we are confident in the benefits the design and operation of the Tunnel will deliver to the region.”

The MPSC expects to evaluate all of the testimony and possibly make a decision by June.