FILE - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan's attorney general is appealing a ruling in the ongoing battle over a proposed tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

At issue is the Enbridge Line 5 oil and natural gas pipeline, which has spanned Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas since 1953. After the line was struck by a tugboat anchor in 2018, Enbridge announced plans to replace the current line situated on the lakebed with a tunnel buried 100 feet beneath the bedrock.

In late 2018, then-Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration amended Public Act 214 of 1952, which originally sanctioned the construction of the Mackinac Bridge. The amended act authorized the building of the Enbridge Line 5 tunnel.

After taking office on Jan. 1, 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel began a united attempt to unravel the deal. In March 2019, Nessel issued a formal opinion that the amendment violated Michigan’s Constitution because the initial Public Act is specific to the Mackinac Bridge as explicitly stated in the Act’s official title.

Enbridge sued in June 2019, and Michigan Court of Claims Judge Michael J. Kelly ruled in the company’s favor and against Nessel last October, prompting the attorney general’s brief filed on Thursday in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

According to the AG’s brief: “Michigan’s Constitution provides that ‘[n]o law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title. No bill shall be altered or amended on its passage through either house so as to change its original purpose as determined by its total content and not alone by its title.’”

The constitutional paragraph is known as the Title-Object Clause. Based on that clause, the attorney general “asks the Court of Appeals to reverse the Court of Claims decision because Act 359 violates the Title-Object Clause by not providing fair notice of the content of the law, and embraces two unrelated objects – a utility tunnel to carry oil beneath the Straits and the Mackinac Bridge to carry motor vehicles above.”

According to the attorney general’s press release, “This case is separate from and not related to the Attorney General’s lawsuit that seeks to shutdown Enbridge’s existing pipelines in the Straits.”

According to the Detroit News, “Line 5 transports natural gas liquids to a facility in the Upper Peninsula town of Rapid River, where propane is extracted and distributed by truck to roughly 22,000 U.P. homes. About 65% of the propane demand in the U.P. is met through Line 5 and 55% of the state’s overall propane demand.

Enbridge asserts the state’s propane demands could experience a shortfall of 756,000 gallons a day unless additional trucks were used, presenting increased risks of accidents and spills. The company says it could substitute less than 10 percent of the pipeline’s fuel transportation with the use of rail service.

Additionally, Enbridge asserts closure of Line 5 would result in a daily shortage of 14.7 million gallons of gas, diesel and jet fuel in Michigan.

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.