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MPSC denies Enbridge Energy’s request for quick approval on Line 5 pipeline project, sets full hearing process for proposal

 (Michigan Public Service Commission and Enbridge Energy logos)
(Michigan Public Service Commission and Enbridge Energy logos) (WLUC)
Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 11:38 AM EDT
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The Michigan Public Service Commission Tuesday denied the relief Enbridge Energy LP sought in its request for a declaratory ruling and also rejected the company’s request for quick approval of plans to relocate the Line 5 pipeline to a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The Commission established a full hearing process for the proposal.

Enbridge in April filed an application (

) requesting siting approval under Act 16 of 1929 to replace and relocate the Line 5 section in the Straits of Mackinac into a new tunnel it would build beneath the lakebed. In the alternative, Enbridge sought a declaratory ruling from the MPSC that the company already has authority from the Commission to build the replacement segment based on the MPSC’s 1953 order that first granted permission for Line 5. The 645-mile interstate pipeline spans both Michigan peninsulas to transport light crude oil and natural gas liquids, including propane used for home heating in Michigan.

Enbridge had the following to say on the decision:

"Enbridge respects the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) decision and we look forward to the next steps in the regulatory process. "We have submitted our application and are prepared for the full review process. "We know that the majority of Michiganders support the Great Lakes Tunnel project, including the replacement pipeline at issue in the MPSC proceeding, and we are committed to building it. We appreciate the timeliness of the decision by the MPSC as it allows us to remain on schedule for completion of the project. Placing a new pipeline in a new Great Lakes Tunnel will provide extra layers of safety and environmental protection and make what are currently safe pipelines even safer. "Pending receipt of all permits and regulatory approvals, we anticipate completing construction of the tunnel and replacement pipeline in 2024."

In Tuesday’s order, the Commission found that, based on Enbridge’s application and comments received from stakeholders, the Line 5 project differs substantially from the pipeline approved in 1953, and therefore the company does not have authority for the project under the 1953 order. Whereas the Commission approved in 1953 dual 20-inch pipelines constructed on the lakebed, Enbridge proposes replacing them with a single 30-inch pipeline housed in a concrete-lined tunnel 60-250 feet beneath the lakebed, involving a new easement and a 99-year lease of public trust property.

The order states that Enbridge is required to file an Act 16 application, pursuant to Rule 447(1)(c) and Commission precedent, to obtain Commission approval to construct the Line 5 project through a contested case. The Commission found that the Line 5 project involves important factual, policy and legal issues best resolved through a proceeding that includes discovery, comprehensive testimony and evidence to provide a robust record. The Commission observed that this proposal is a matter of significant public interest best addressed through a contested case.

The Commission in April

while it considered the issue of a declaratory ruling and established a public comment period during which it sought public input specifically on any legal analysis of issues pertaining to Enbridge’s request for a declaratory ruling. A number of stakeholders filed comments opposing Enbridge’s

request, including the Office of Attorney General Dana Nessel, more than a dozen Indian Tribes, a number of Michigan-based and national environmental organizations, and State Sen. Jeff Irwin. The Commission also received thousands of comments from Michigan residents, both in support of and in opposition to the tunnel project, many discussing the merits of Line 5 rather than focusing on the legal issues surrounding Enbridge’s request for a declaratory ruling.

Following Tuesday’s order, a notice of hearing will be issued with information on the scheduling of a prehearing conference and deadline for parties seeking to intervene in the formal contested case proceeding.

Opportunities to monitor and participate in MPSC’s Line 5 proceedings

The MPSC is scheduling a public hearing on Aug. 24 to provide an overview of the MPSC process and Enbridge’s application and for commissioners to hear directly from the public. The hearing will be held remotely with telephone and web access options. Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks.

The MPSC launched a dedicated webpage at

, to enable the public to monitor Enbridge’s siting application and related requests.

on the MPSC’s siting authority under Act 16 and opportunities for the public to participate are available. Individuals can sign up for e-mail updates on MPSC meeting notices, orders, press releases, public meetings, or other developments specifically related to the Line 5 proceeding before the Commission. Instructions are also available for individuals seeking to sign up to be notified of all formal case filings through the MPSC’s e-dockets system. Additional information will be posted on the website as it becomes available.

To look up cases from today’s meeting, access the E-Dockets filing system

.

To watch recordings of the MPSC’s meetings,

.

For information about the MPSC, visit

.

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